Sidney Jones’ career with the Eagles hasn’t gotten off to the best start. Riddled by injuries in his first two seasons, many have labeled Jones as the odd man out in the Eagles secondary. However, it isn’t time to give up on Jones just yet.

All it takes is two comparisons as reasons why not to deem Jones as a failed pick: Brandon Graham and Nelson Agholor. Both were ridiculed over their first few seasons with the Eagles and labeled as busts. Then, Graham and Agholor turned around to become two of the most vital players on the team.

Before discussing Jones, let’s take a look at the career paths of Graham and Agholor.

In 2010, the Eagles traded up to select Graham 13th overall in the NFL Draft. Graham was selected over players such as Earl Thomas and Devin McCourty, but many were excited about the addition of the defensive end from the University of Michigan. However, Graham’s career got off to a brutal start in Philadelphia.

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Photo: AP Sports

In his rookie season, Graham had just 14 tackles and three sacks before suffering a torn ACL in mid-December. Graham didn’t make his return until week 9 of the 2011 season, and he appeared in just three games, making only four tackles and not registering a single sack.

In 2012, Graham’s tenure with the Eagles took a positive turn when he made an improvement, as he had 46 total tackles, including 5.5 sacks. That positivity didn’t last long, though, when Graham’s tackling numbers were nearly cut in half the following season with just 24 tackles and three sacks. Graham got caught up in a position change due to the decision to switch to a 3-4 defense, causing Graham to go from defensive end to linebacker.

In 2014, Graham seemed to finally make the adjustment he needed despite the noise surrounding him as a bust. Graham had 58 tackles, which was by far a career high, and tied a career high with 5.5 sacks. Despite competition from teams such as the Giants and Titans to sign Graham (which would have brought him back to a 4-3 defense as a DE), Graham decided to prioritize the Eagles and signed a four-year deal with the team.

Over time, due to a coaching change from Chip Kelly to Doug Pederson and a changing in scheme, Graham ended up back at defensive end, but his success maintained. Graham consistently performed as one of the top defensive ends in all of football, and made the most clutch play in Eagles history: the strip-sack of Tom Brady in Super Bowl 52.

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Photo: Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports

“Brandon Graham, was drafted too high.”

Those words from Jason Kelce in his memorable speech on underdogs will ring in the ears of Eagles fans everywhere, and it echoes what Graham’s critics said for years. Despite the premature calls of Graham being a “bust”, he overcame early injuries and inconsistent play to become an all-time great with the Eagles.

Now, let’s take a look at Agholor, who faced very similar scrutiny.

The Eagles selected Agholor 20th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, Agholor was almost non-existent as he caught just 23 passes for 283 yards and one touchdown. The following season, Agholor hardly improved, as he caught 36 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns.

The Eagles took a bold move selecting a wide receiver in the first round, and after the first two seasons, it looked like it was the wrong decision. Agholor struggled with simply being able to catch the ball, and he never made a strong emergence into the offense.

In his third season, Agholor faced a make-or-break year and was at risk of not even making the roster. Then, Agholor put up a monster season.

Agholor became the clear-cut #2 wide receiver on the team, doubling his career-high in catches with 62, and also doubled his yardage with 768, and hauled in eight touchdowns. Agholor finally showed his playmaking ability that the Eagles coveted when they selected him in the first round. Better yet, Agholor’s hands went from a significant weakness to a strength, as he hauled in the majority of passes that came his way.

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Photo: Tim Hawk/NJ.com

Similar to Graham, Agholor was a key factor in the Eagles playoff run and Super Bowl win, and they very well don’t bring their first Lombardi Trophy back to Philadelphia without him.

Agholor flatlined in 2018, as he didn’t make a noticeable improvement or decline in any category, but his playmaking ability is still encouraging.

Notice a trend here?

Both Graham and Agholor were pretty much counted out after their first two or three seasons of their career, but made incredible jumps to become the player many hoped they’d be.

Maybe, just maybe, that will be the case with Jones.

Jones was a coveted prospect out of college; he was projected to be a top-15 pick after a great career at the University of Washington, and looked to be one of the premiere cornerback’s in a stacked defensive back class. That was until he had his pro day.

Jones ruptured his Achilles during his March pro day, and a once-promising draft process for him turned into a nightmare. Jones fell completely out of Day 1 of the draft, and was eventually selected 43rd overall by the Eagles.

Both the Eagles organization and fanbase knew what they were getting with Jones: a talented cornerback who likely wouldn’t play at all during his first season. Despite that, the Eagles needed help at cornerback and Jones wouldn’t be able to provide that, even though the team used a top-50 draft pick on him. Instead, the Eagles had to package Jordan Matthews and another draft pick, a future fourth-round pick, in a trade to the Buffalo Bills for cornerback Ronald Darby.

Jones surprisingly was able to make it on the field during the 2017 season, as he played in the Eagles’ week 17 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. It was a meaningless game, but Jones even stepping on the field seemed to be a positive prognosis for what was to come.

Jones was a healthy scratch from all three of the Eagles’ playoff games, and wasn’t able to be a factor in the historic Super Bowl victory.

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Photo: CBS Sports

Coming into 2018, hopes were high for Jones. Darby was locked in as on outside cornerback, but Jalen Mills and Jones were set to battle for the other outside spot, along with the slot cornerback position.

Jones eventually got put in the slot, and played very well to start the season. In the season opener, Mohamed Sanu, who Jones frequently lined up against, had just four catches for 18 yards. In week 2, Jones allowed just a 60.4 passer rating when targeted, which ranked as the best in all of football. Throughout the first four games, Jones ceded just 12 catches on 20 targets for 79 yards. It looked as if Jones’ promising career was back on track.

Then, just two weeks later, the injury bug struck again for Jones.

Jones injured his hamstring during the week 6 game against the New York Giants, and was out for over a month before returning in week 11 against the New Orleans Saints.

However, Jones re-aggravated his hamstring injury in New Orleans, which forced him to miss the majority of the game and the following week as well. Jones returned in week 13 in the Eagles’ home matchup against the Washington Redskins, but the very next week, the hamstring injury flared up yet again in Dallas, causing him to miss a portion of the game, and also get burned by Amari Cooper on multiple occasions. That was the last time Jones stepped on the field last season.

This season, Jones dealt with an issue multiple players in the league dealt with, including Eagles running back Darren Sproles, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, and Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, which was a recurring hamstring issue. Similar to Cook, who also suffered a severe lower body injury, Jones struggled to get back to full strength after his Achilles tear, which can typically cause soft tissue injury. That, more times than not, ends up being the hamstring that is effected most.

Thanks to his injury history, Jones has been deemed by more people than not as too injury prone, which forces the thinking that Jones will never be of valuable use.

In his first two seasons, Jones missed a total of 21 regular season games. However, this situation is somewhat similar to another Eagle that was compared to before. Graham missed 16 regular season games in his first two seasons, and Graham dealt with multiple injury flare-ups following his torn ACL in his rookie year.

While it’s impossible to predict how Jones’ health will play out in the future, Jones did show when he was at full health that he is a capable cornerback. Jones was once considered a top talent coming into the NFL Draft for a reason, and finally getting at full strength will be important for him.

Though Jones did appear in one game in 2017, the occurrence of his injury earlier that year in March meant that he not only wasn’t at full health, but had to spend a portion of his offseason rehabbing, as an Achilles tear takes a minimum of 12 months to be fully recovered.

Even sacrificing some of his offseason to rehab instead of being able to fully commit time to preparing for the upcoming season can start the culmination of issues. Now, this offseason, Jones is no longer coming off a major injury and will strictly be focused on getting his body right, and continuing to grow as a player.

What will help Jones, as well, is the fact that he’s in a crowder cornerback group. Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Jalen Mills are all capable players who are sure to get playing time. That means Jones won’t be forced to carry a full workload to start, and will be able to get his confidence higher on the field, while also potentially earning himself more in-game action.

Jones’ situation is strikingly similar to both Graham and Agholor’s. Some are hopeful Jones will be able to grow into the player he was once drafted to be, similar to Graham and Agholor, but others are pessimistic that he’ll ever be of use. However, it is premature to deem Jones as a bust after just two seasons.


Who knows, maybe one day Kelce or another Eagles offensive lineman will give a second underdog speech on the Rocky steps, and this time saying, “Sidney Jones, can’t stay healthy!”

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images
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