Full Training Camp for the Eagles opens up in six days, and it’s time to start gearing up for various position battles. While there’s a number of potential battles that are worth keeping an eye on, I’m most intrigued by the number two corner spot opposite Darius Slay. The addition of Slay goes a long way in improving our overall coverage ability from the past few seasons, and if a legitimate second outside corner can emerge on the other side it could put this defense over the top.
The two main names battling for the spot are Avonte Maddox—the leader in the clubhouse—and Sidney Jones—a popular breakout candidate (among some). Obviously Rasul Douglas will be included in this battle, but I have a hard time seeing him walk away with the job unless there’s injury.
Truthfully, I’m conflicted on who I think will win this battle. Maddox has decent past production on the outside, though his best tape has come in the slot and at safety; and Sidney Jones has next to no production, but the size and potential coverage tools are what you look for on the outside.
I say “potential” coverage skills because it’s difficult to reconcile the obvious traits we saw from Jones in college and the player we’ve seen post achilles injury. Nobody should want to give up on a player who flashed that sort of high-end potential in college—he was likely a top-20 pick pre-injury—and anyone who anticipates a breakout season is understandably clinging to that.
If you’re a betting man, however, the safe money is on Maddox. He’s done the most to earn the first crack at the position and some would even consider it his job to lose. With that said, my main concern with Maddox is the general lack of upside. While he has experience on the outside, his size and lack of makeup speed makes him an easy target out there, and despite some bright spots we have seen opponents pick on him at times.
While Maddox winning the job is the most likely scenario, it’s probably not the best case scenario. I think it almost goes without saying that Sidney Jones tapping into his potential and having a breakout season is the ideal outcome, in which case Maddox can either slide to the slot—where he’s done well, but will need to beat out LeBlanc or Robey-Coleman—or third safety (dime back)—where his versatility will have more value.
The Slay addition is a move I’ve been hoping the organization would make for a half decade now, and it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t long overdue. What might excite me the most is the amount of pressure it should take off the rest of the secondary. With Slay following the number one receiver around, Maddox or Jones will rarely if ever need to face top wideouts, and the defense will even be able to roll coverage their way with Slay able to hold down one side of the field on occasion. Suffice to say, things are looking up for the secondary no matter who wins this job.