The Eagles created a nickel-sized hole in their defensive secondary this week.
With a handful of cornerbacks still recovering from injury, and Orlando Scandrick being shown the door on Monday, it’s not clear who will take the field as the nickel corner against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday .
Avonte Maddox started in the slot each of the Eagles’ first four games but has been out with a concussion and neck injury since the team’s Week 4 win against the Green Bay Packers. Maddox had to be taken off the field on a stretcher after a head-to-head collision with Eagles safety Andrew Sendejo.
With Maddox joining fellow corners Ronald Darby, Cre’Von LeBlanc, and Jalen Mills on the injured list, the Eagles brought in Scandrick, who took over the job. But, after the team’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, the Eagles cut the veteran corner and have yet to name a replacement publicly.
When asked whether Sidney Jones could fill in, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wouldn’t commit.
“I don’t like to be pigeonholed into things, or whatever,” Schwartz said during his Tuesday news conference. “He can play that position. Obviously, Malcolm [Jenkins] can play that position. Malcolm layers a little bit different because of all the different roles he plays. And then at some time, we’ll trend to get Avonte and Cre’Von back, too. So, we have a lot of different players who can play that position."
Maddox is still in the concussion protocol and likely won’t play on Sunday. Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Maddox also needs to overcome his neck soreness. He hasn’t practiced with the team this week.
“He’s still dealing with some soreness,” Pederson said during his Wednesday news conference. “It’s the neck. That’s the concern for us. ... He’s still working with that, range of motion, all of that, before we put him back out there.”
LeBlanc is still on injured reserve with a foot injury, and it’s unclear whether he’ll return this season.
When Mills returned against Dallas from a foot injury that kept him out for nearly a year, Jones’ role was diminished from outside corner to backing up Scandrick on the inside. Former practice-squad player Craig James relieved Mills as the outside corner when he needed a break, leading to Jones not playing a snap.
“Sid started last year at the beginning in that [slot] position and was able to hold that position,” Schwartz said. "So, we have confidence that whoever we put in there will be able to accomplish that role.”
Jones’ career has been marred by soft-tissue injuries, starting with a torn Achilles in a workout before the 2017 NFL draft that caused him to slide to the second round. He has yet to unlock the potential that evaluators saw in him.
He missed Week 5 against the New York Jets with a bad hamstring and struggled with the rest of the secondary against the Minnesota Vikings the following week.
Pederson said Jones is ready to contribute if needed.
“My observation of him ... is that he’s in a good place, and he’s ready to get back out there and perform,” Pederson said.
If they don’t go with Jones, the Eagles could turn to Jenkins for help in the slot. Safeties Sendejo and Rudy Ford could fill in for Jenkins.
Pederson, like Schwartz, wouldn’t get into the plan for the position.