After acquiring Darius Slay this offseason and solidifying their No. 1 corner spot, the Eagles second cornerback spot will be filled by either Avonte Maddox or Sidney Jones.
While Jones still has great potential to be a solid corner in this league, Maddox has shown more on the field over his first two seasons. Without OTAs this offseason, Maddox will probably end up winning the job because of that.
In an ideal world, Jones would take the outside spot opposite of Slay with Maddox manning the nickel or third safety positions. But with both Nickell Robey-Coleman and Cre’Von Leblanc already on the roster, they’ll probably end up battling it out for the starting nickel spot. Not to mention the team has a handful of safeties that could probably fill the third safety spot more effectively than Maddox (Will Parks, K’Von Wallace and Jalen Mills). Leaving Maddox and Jones to battle it out for the No. 2 corner position.
Maddox had a pleasantly surprising rookie season in 2018. He played all over the defensive secondary, seeing time at outside corner, free safety and in the slot. Towards the end of the year when the secondary was decimated with injuries, Maddox was handed the starting spot on the outside and played pretty well. He finished the year with two interceptions and a Pro Football Focus overall grade of 63.3.
Fast forward to 2019, and we saw Maddox take a bit of a step back. His PFF grade dropped to 58.9 and his coverage grade dropped from 60.7 in ’18 to 57.4 last year. Jim Schwartz primarily played Maddox on the outside, especially down the stretch after Ronald Darby went down with an injury.
One of Maddox’s worst games as a pro came in the wildcard game against Seattle where he started at the right corner back spot. He gave up 4 catches on 5 targets for 102 yards.
Last season as a whole doesn’t look quite as bad for Maddox. He was targeted 66 times, allowing 42 catches for 480 yards and 2 touchdowns. Maddox was far from the worst corner on the roster, but he didn’t really do anything to standout among all the mediocrity surrounding him, which was somewhat disappointing
Personally, I’d like to see Maddox take the safety spot opposite of McLeod. It would be a different role for Maddox — the only safety position he’s played in the NFL was free safety when McLeod got hurt in 2018 — but the strong safety position in Schwartz’s defense is a hybrid position, something I think Maddox would thrive in.
This way Jones — who I believe can be a much better natural outside corner than Maddox — will have the opportunity to prove he can hold his own on the outside.
Fortunately for Maddox, his play in 2020 shouldn’t make or break the Eagles secondary as a whole. But, a breakout season from the 24-year-old would undoubtedly make this defensive backfield a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.