There was nothing notable about Sidney Jones’ performance in his first Eagles preseason game, and that turned out to be a good thing.
Jones played about a quarter and a half Thursday, as nickel cornerback for both the first- and second-team defenses. Not much action came his way. The only long completion the Steelers managed when Jones was playing went to the other side of the field; Rasul Douglas stumbled trying to time his leap and JuJu Smith-Schuster easily caught the ball, then ran away for a 71-yard touchdown.
Then, a while later, the cameras were on Jones, and not in a good way. He was helping on a tackle when Eagles linebacker Nate Gerry flew in and upended Jones, seeming to catch Jones’ left foot. Jones landed hard on the Lincoln Financial Field turf and stayed down, holding his foot.
This was the same foot that is attached to the Achilles tendon that Jones tore on his University of Washington pro day, causing him to drop to the second round of the 2017 NFL draft, where the Eagles took him with the idea they could wait a year to see him at full strength.
Jones, whose only rookie action was the meaningless Dallas game at the end of the regular season, has been everything he was advertised to be in this training camp — smart, fast, aggressive, smooth.
He didn’t really get to show much of that Thursday night, and then, there he was, limping off, heading to the examination table behind the Eagles’ bench, taking off his left cleat and waiting as new Eagles orthopedic surgeon Christopher Dodson prodded his foot.
Eventually, Dodson had Jones stand up and hop around a little on his left foot. Then, Jones was lacing up the cleat again and getting the tape around his ankle reapplied.
Jones didn’t come back into the game but he remained on the sideline, helmet in hand, clearly available. An injury in the preseason opener, after Jones missed the last three weeks of spring work with mysterious “lower body soreness” might trigger questions about durability.
It was interesting that Jones played exclusively in the slot. That is where he has been in camp practices, mostly, but defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has said not to read too much into that, Schwartz will be moving guys around.
Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are doing really well on the outside; they were just fine in their two series of work Thursday. Jones as the nickel, where Patrick Robinson excelled last season, just might be the plan.
Before this, Jones had never played slot, at any level. But he has been willing and confident, a sure tackler despite his 6-foot, 181-pound frame.
“I know my keys. I know my fits,” Jones said early in camp. “I know everything pretty much inside and out. It won’t be a struggle. … Check the film.”