What a difference a year makes. At the 2017 NFL Draft, the Ben Franklin Parkway roared when it was announced that the hometown Philadelphia Eagles selected University of Washington cornerback Sidney Jones in the 2nd round.
Jones was considered by many analysts to be one of the top five cornerbacks in the draft, but ended up dropping due to a torn achilles he suffered at his pro day at Washington. He was expected to miss a significant amount of the 2017 season, but the Eagles decided to take the chance and select him.
The Eagles ended up having a great 2017, and as the year went on they decided to keep holding Jones out because there wasn't a pressing need at the position. When the Eagles clinched home-field advantage in Week 16, they decided to finally activate Jones in the final game of the season when the team rested as many starters as it possibly could. Jones held his ground in that game, and allowed fans to get a glimpse of their future shut-down cornerback. Jones was inactive the entire postseason but still ended up with a Super Bowl ring to show for his brief work.
Turn the page to 2018, and things are looking up for the Eagles, specifically their cornerbacks. Coming off a Super Bowl run, the team brought back all but one of their corners from 2017, but added a cornerback in the 3rd-round of the 2018 NFL Draft in Avonte Maddox to make up for the loss of Patrick Robinson. Jones was projected to win the slot position out of camp, and he did beat out Maddox for the spot after having a solid enough preseason, earning honors from Pro Football Focus.
Jones started out 2018 looking as advertised, playing well the first few weeks of the season. He was named the NFL's top slot-cornerback for Week 2, and had a crazy-good play against the Colts in Week 3 that made some jaws drop.
We wrote an article that detailed just how well he was playing, but then the injuries came.
In Week 5 against the Vikings, Jones had a lower body injury that had most of Philadelphia holding their breath. He ended up escaping without a major injury, claiming it was just a rolled/twisted ankle. He was able to return on a short week and play the Thursday night game against the Giants in Week 6, but Jones once again left the game with an injury, this time a serious one.
His hamstring injury ended up forcing him to miss the Panthers game and Jaguars game, and then even with a bye week following the Jaguars game he still missed the Cowboys game. In total he was out of action a month, but was finally able to return against the Saints.
His return was short-lived, as he suffered yet another hamstring injury. It is unclear if he re-injured the original hurt hamstring, or if this is an injury to his other hamstring. Doug Pederson says that Jones is now considered "week-to-week". With Darren Sproles missing the first half of the season with a nagging hamstring injury, there could be a chance we don't see Jones until the last two or three games of the season, and maybe not even see him again this season if the Eagles are eliminated from playoff contention before Jones is healthy enough to return to the lineup.
With injuries claiming Jones' first two NFL seasons, it is worth wondering if it is time to panic when it comes to Jones. Although in college he had no injury history (never missed a game in his three seasons), he has now only played in parts of seven games out of a possible 26 in his career. With all four of his injuries being to his lower-body, it's worth considering just how much this will hinder Jones moving forward.
A torn achilles paired with two pretty serious hamstring injuries could mean that Jones can no longer keep up with the speed of NFL wide receivers. Even if that ends up not being an issue, there could be cause for concern that he will now be injury prone, and will never end up playing a full NFL season due to his body failing him.
However, this offseason there were major shake-ups to the Eagles medical staff. There is a chance that because of Darren Sproles and Sidney Jones both re-injuring their hamstrings when they felt ready to return, this medical staff might be to blame for not taking the right precautions and misjudging how long these players should have been out with their injuries.
The Eagles went into this season thinking their cornerbacks were set for a long time. Now Ronald Darby is out for the season and his contract expires this offseason. Jalen Mills has been left out to dry and is constantly beaten deep, causing fans to want him out of town. Rasul Douglas had his chance to show his worth these past few weeks, but has underwhelmed and was torched all game by Drew Brees. Avonte Maddox has been a solid player, but he has barely played cornerback, as he was forced to play Safety for multiple weeks when Rodney McLeod and Corey Graham got hurt. And we now know the full history of Sidney Jones in midnight green.
The Eagles will have 10 draft picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. With there now being cause for concern with Sidney Jones and company, Howie Roseman would be wise to invest at least one or two picks in the secondary, and then spend the rest of his picks on weapons or protection for Carson Wentz and help on the defensive line.
It might have gotten lost in all the injury madness that is sweeping the Eagles, but it is definitely okay to start getting worried about Sidney Jones' future as an Eagle. If you want to keep looking at the bright side of things, Jones is still just 22 years old. There is still hope he can become fully healthy at some point, à la Joel Embiid, and become the top corner for this Eagles team for years to come. We will just have to wait until 2019 to start getting a clear idea of what Sidney Jones is.