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Film Room: Newly Activated CB Sidney Jones

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“The Philadelphia Eagles select, Sidney Jones.”

“YES!”

That was my reaction when the Eagles selected the uber-talented cornerback from Washington in the 2nd round with the 43rd overall pick. I couldn’t have cared less about his potential redshirt season. I couldn’t have cared less about his Achilles injury. The Eagles got a good one, that’s all I cared about. Don’t believe me? Check the tape.

There were several other reasons for my excitement. Not only did Jones make my top 10 on my big board despite the injury, but the Eagles were desperate for cornerback help coming into the draft. Before drafting Jones and West Virginia CB Rasul Douglas, the only cornerbacks on the Eagles roster were  Jalen Mills, Ron Brooks, and Patrick Robinson. I’m not counting Aaron Grymes, CJ Smith, Mitchell White and Dwayne Gratz for obvious reasons.

“If there was an article that ranked all of the NFL teams’ positions of need in one uniform list, the Eagles cornerbacks would probably take one of the top spots. That’s how bad things are in the Philly secondary entering the draft.” – Steven Cook, Bleacher Report

The Eagles reportedly wanted to takes Jones with their 14th overall pick in the 1st round, but that all changed on Jones’ last rep of his Washington Huskies Pro Day workout. It was a routine play as he simply planted his left foot to change direction and felt a pop. After the tumble he looked down at the injury with a knowing look. There went the first round hype and possibly an entire season.

Thankfully there were new advances in Achilles surgery, namely a procedure called “mini-open Achilles surgery”. Jones’ surgeon, Robert Anderson, helped write a paper on the procedure and in that paper it noted that with the new procedure the average recovery time was 273 days. When Jones plays on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, it will have been 295 days since the injury.

Success stories from this new procedure include Jason Peters, Cameron Wake, Brent Grimes, Demaryius Thomas, Terrell Suggs and others. Now Jones will attempt to add his name to the list of those that recovered from an Achilles tear and went on to be a highly productive NFL player. The odds are in his favor. Jones has no prior lower body injury history and was 20 years old when the injury occurred.

Taking a look back at his 2016 college tape from Washington, I remember why I regard him so highly.

Jones is excellent at the line, showing patience and sticky man skills. In the video above, he mirrors the WR and doesn’t open up too early. Once an outside release is established, Jones squeezes the route to the sideline, using it as an extra defender, and is careful to not be too hands-on with his head turned to the receiver. He consistently showed the ability to smoothly flip his hips and limit the window in which a QB can throw on these vertical releases outside of the numbers.

Colorado tries to fool ol’ Sidney here, but he’s not taking the cheese. The Buffaloes throw the bubble and the man Jones is responsible for engages him with a block and release vertically up the field on a go. Jones does well to read the new ball-carrier, noticing he’s looking downfield and looking to throw, so Jones carries his man.

He follows up this solid play but coming back to the ball, making a form tackle, and delivering a blow with his helmet on the ball-hand that forces a fumble.

Washington State QB Luke Falk would eventually scramble for a touchdown, but that’s not the part of the play we’re highlighting. Jones possesses very good mental processing and route recognition and combines that in the above clip with and aggressive press.

Recognizing the switch release by the receivers, Jones immediately passes off his route to the inside wall off and gets his hands on the next receiver in his zone of influence. Understanding his new coverage responsibility wants to get outside of the man over top, Jones rides him through the stem and prevents the desired release by keeping him inside.

Another example of Jones’ mental processing as he diagnoses the pulling linemen and fires his gun. For his college career he had 8 interceptions, possessing natural ball skills and a knack for coming up with a big play. He’s also a big time chirper, which permeates his play post-whistle, and that fits in well with the other mouthy Eagles cornerbacks.

Evaluating his overall game, Jones brings ball skills, athleticism, foot quickness, man/zone cover skills and a play-makers’ mentality. His narrow frame can cause him to get bumped off routes when he’s up against bigger wide receivers, but overall Jones was a high-end starting caliber cornerback coming into the draft. I’m hoping he gets enough snaps in Week 17 to get a better feel for where he is in his recovery, but at the end of the day, I’m just happy that his road to recovery has reached this point.

Did you enjoy this piece? Check out our other Film Room pieces and subscribe to Locked On Eagles on iTunes!

Michael is an NFL Draft enthusiast, aspiring scout, and grandson of longtime East Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS football coach John P. Kist. He hosts Locked On Eagles and writes for Inside the Pylon & Breaking Football.

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