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Eagles benched Sidney Jones against Cowboys but insist he’s ‘fine’ | Early Birds

The third-year cornerback appears to have been demoted after a lackluster game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones gets beaten on a touchdown pass to Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen on Oct. 13.
Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones gets beaten on a touchdown pass to Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen on Oct. 13.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans. I’d ask how you’re doing, but I think I know. The Eagles are still smarting from a 37-10 blowout loss to the Cowboys, but let’s look on the positive note. It’s a new week, and there’s a new opponent to focus on: the Buffalo Bills. But if you started to exhale, perhaps take a second to realize this isn’t exactly the Bills team NFL fans have grown accustomed to rolling over. Albeit mostly against so-so competition, Buffalo’s defense has risen to the top of the league, and the Bills are 5-1 after beating the lowly Miami Dolphins. This week will be another test.

The Eagles will have a walk-through closed to the media this morning, and players will be available to speak afterward. Then offensive coordinator Mike Groh and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will speak with reporters, so be sure to look out for that.

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Keeping up with Jones

Possibly lost in the chaos during and following the Eagles’ Sunday night loss was the absence of Sidney Jones.

The cornerback the Eagles selected in the second round of the 2017 draft spent the entire game on the sideline. It wasn’t the bad hamstring that has plagued him at times this season, or any other soft-tissue injury. Jones’ health has hampered him since the start of his NFL career, which began with a torn Achilles tanking his draft stock and dropping him to the Eagles in the second round.

In the high-stakes division game at AT&T Stadium, the Eagles just didn’t want him out there.

“Why didn’t Sidney Jones play? Well, we had Jalen Mills back this week, so it was great to see him out there," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said during his Monday news conference. “We had Rasul [Douglas] on the other side, so that was the game plan we went with.”

Mills, despite being in his first game action since injuring his foot nearly a year ago, played the majority of the team’s snaps. When Mills came out for a handful of plays, recent practice squad call-up Craig James’ number was called ahead of Jones'.

“That was the plan this week,” Pederson said. “Sidney’s fine. He’s OK."

Jones may be healthy, but it’s unlikely that a highly regarded prospect currently stuck behind a guy just on the wrong side of the roster bubble is “fine."

It’s possible Jones’ hamstring is the culprit for his demotion, but there’s also a chance the Eagles’ defensive staff has seen enough.

Jones was coming off a tough Minnesota game in which he was burned by Adam Thielen on a double move for a touchdown and played a role in the secondary’s horrid showing. He may be the team’s most talented cornerback, but he seldom has put it together since returning from the torn Achilles that cost him most of his rookie season.

There’s plenty of blame to go around when assessing the Eagles’ rocky start to the year, but the 2017 draft class — headlined by Derek Barnett, Jones, and Rasul Douglas — is chief among the concerns.

Barnett has shown flashes of production, but it’s been spotty. Douglas has been about the same. But Jones has been buried on the depth chart midway through his third season.

Again, Jones’ hamstring could quietly be the reason he watched Sunday’s game from the sideline. Pederson could be protecting the young defensive back from media scrutiny. But, this is the same player that the coach recently said needed to overcome letting discomfort and pain hold him back.

Pederson originally said players needed to “break through” the pain threshold earlier this month, but clarified what he meant the following day.

“We have to push them as coaches just a little bit,” Pederson said. “Not risk further injury. We’re not going to do that. But get them to feel comfortable and confident that everything is OK, and once they push past that barrier then we’re good, and then they learn to play that way, they learn practice that way.”

Jones went into the season with a goal to play all 16 games and stay healthy. He’s already fallen short of it, and said staying on the field this season hasn’t been as simple as he’d hoped.

“It’s been a battle with my body," Jones said. "I’m not going to say it’s easy, but you can’t just sit here and dwell on it. That’s how you go in the dump. You take it for what it is and jump that hurdle that [Pederson] says was there.”

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Another week, another round of roster shake-ups after a blowout loss. Les Bowen writes about Orlando Scandrick and Akeem Spence being sent packing, the two latest defensive contributors to be cut.

  2. Bowen also wonders: What are the Eagles walking away from the mirror with after they take these long, hard looks after bad losses?

  3. The Eagles had a chance to crawl back into Sunday’s game, but a Miles Sanders run that came up short on third down squandered that chance. Why did Doug Pederson call that play? Erin McCarthy writes about what the coach had to say.

  4. Jeff McLane explores what we learned during Sunday’s loss, and points out the coaching issues the Eagles currently have.

  5. Perhaps before you read about what we learned about the team during the loss, you should read the main reasons why the Eagles fell flat. Paul Domowitch has you covered in that department.

  6. There wasn’t much to like about the Eagles’ offense against the Cowboys, and Carson Wentz is included in that. Domo argues that it’s time for the young quarterback to elevate the team when they need him the most.

  7. Marcus Hayes says Eagles fans might be staring at a bleak future: With the Birds’ apparent decline, are we already in the midst of a Dallas Cowboys dynasty?

  8. Renowned actor and Temple graduate Josh Tower, from “Hamilton," will sing the national anthem before the Eagles’ home game against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 3. As Jane M. Von Borgen details, he got the gig after telling The Inquirer it was his dream.

From the mailbag

[For the] past two or three years the run option mostly seemed to work well for them. Especially with Jeffery on a slant. Why do you think they got away from it? — Bob, via email

Good question, Bob. They’re stilling running run-pass options, but I believe they’ve evolved a bit and that’s why you see less of the slant. They certainly ran them a bit more when Nick Foles was at the helm, but I think that is just a matter of playing to the strengths of the personnel they have out there. Carson Wentz, although it hasn’t gone very well this season, can succeed in the vertical passing game a little more. Foles was at his best when he was in a rhythm and making quick decisions.

But overall, I think it’s just an interesting example of how the league changes over time, and how coaches have to add wrinkles and subtract predictable elements of their schemes. Everything goes out of style eventually — think of read options, bell-bottom jeans, and even now the Cover 3 schemes that made the Seahawks so successful for so long. There are a lot of really smart guys (much smarter than me) who get paid handsomely to figure out ways to stop what’s working in the NFL. It’s one of the most intriguing parts of the game, at least to me.