Eight weeks into the 2021 NFL season, the Eagles have had an up and down affair. There have been more negatives than positives with this team, but there are certainly positives that can be built upon past this season.
One of the few bright spots has been fourth year corner Avonte Maddox, who made the shift to the inside this year and is having a career year from his new position.
Standing at 5’9”, playing in the nickel was alway Maddox’s natural fit in the NFL. In the years leading up to 2021, the Eagles just didn’t have any other suitable options on the outside, which forced Maddox to play out of position and primarily on an island in coverage.
In Jonathan Gannon’s zone coverage scheme, Maddox has been able to play much more freely, and the play making ability that he teased during his rookie campaign is beginning to come full circle.
On the year, Maddox has recorded one interception, his first since his rookie season. He’s allowed a 74.1 completion percentage when targeted, but he’s only allowing 5.5 yards per completion, by far the best mark of his career. Quarterbacks have a passer rating of 65.4 when throwing in Maddox’s direction, which is the lowest passer rating he’s allowed since his rookie campaign.
Not only has he been stout in coverage, Maddox has also made plays in the running game and rushing the passer. He has half a sack, two quarterback hits, two total pressures, and four tackles for a loss, the highest mark of his career.
Per Pro Football Focus, Maddox is the ninth-highest ranked corner in football this season, posting an overall defensive grade of 75.1. His coverage grade is just as stout, grading out with a 77.0, 10th-best in the NFL. And for what it’s worth, his 90.2 pass rushing grade is the highest among all corners by a landslide.
We always knew Maddox had playmaking ability, it was evident during his rookie season when he played the third safety role or in the nickel. He’s just not built to play on the outside in today’s NFL, so his struggles over the past two seasons were to be expected.
Now that he’s found a home in the nickel and has played at a high standard, Maddox should be in the long-term plans for the Eagles. His rookie contract is set to expire after this season, but he will more than likely resign with the team.
Nickel corner isn’t exactly a premiere defensive position, but its value has grown significantly over the past decade. The Eagles, maybe more so than any other team in the league, should understand the value of a solid nickel corner.
Remember Patrick Robinson? The starting nickel corner on the 2017 Super Bowl roster was arguably the best player in Philly’s secondary that season.
The Eagles haven’t been able to replace him at the nickel since his departure, but they may have finally found someone who can be a long-term solution at the position.
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