Maddox out but not down
PHILADELPHIA — Avonte Maddox won’t be back in the Eagles’ secondary Monday night against Washington.
Maddox’s knee and ankle aren’t quite where they need to be. The injury stems from landing awkwardly in the end zone during the first quarter against the Saints on Nov. 18.
“Next week,” Maddox said, referring to the Dec. 9 game at Dallas. “I’m getting better.”
Make no mistake — the Eagles miss him.
The Birds’ secondary in last week’s 25-22 come-from-behind victory over the Giants featured such household names as Tre Sullivan, Chandon Sullivan and Cre’Von LeBlanc. They could’ve used Maddox at cornerback and/or safety.
Maddox, a rookie fourthround pick out of Pitt, went from only playing on special teams, where he continues to stand out, in the first three games to being on the field for 317 of a possible 319 defensive snaps (99 percent) in the five weeks prior to the loss at New Orleans.
Even more impressive was that he played free safety, a position he had never tried until practice leading up to Week 4, for all 62 defensive plays in Week 5 against the Vikings.
It was defensive backs coach Cory Undlin’s idea to try Maddox at free safety ahead of the more experienced Corey Graham, which proved to be a good fit for Maddox’s skill set.
“Avonte gave us the best replacement for Rodney [McLeod],” Undlin told reporters. “He’s got great range. He’s fast [and] really, really smart back there. He’s got great awareness.”
Maddox began the first Giants game as the free safety, then switched to slot corner for the final 45 defensive snaps when Sidney Jones hurt his hamstring.
The 5-foot-9, 184-pound Mad-
dox remained at free safety during the next two weeks before returning to cornerback versus the Cowboys.
“I noticed his speed and toughness immediately,” said McLeod, whose season-ending Week 3 knee injury allowed Maddox to get on the field. “He’s been great.
“Just like that, he’s asked to step in and be a starter and play all these different roles for us.
For a rookie, coming into this league, he’s handled everything that he’s been asked to do well. He’s a good listener, he’s coachable and, most importantly, he’s going to work his butt off.”
Known mostly for his coverage skills at Pitt, Maddox said he doesn’t have a positional preference.
“I just go out and play.” Maddox said Saturday afternoon at the NovaCare Complex. “I call myself a DB. I can play centerfield [free safety]. I can play in the middle in the slot. If they need me at corner, [I can do that]. It don’t matter.
I’ll do whatever they need me to do.”
Maddox credits veterans McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins for their tutelage and challenging him by “[putting] a lot on my plate because they know what it’s like on the field.”
His highlights include returning an interception 23 yards at Tennessee to set up a field goal, forcing a fumble that Jenkins recovered against the Jaguars, and registering seven tackles versus the Vikings and Cowboys.
The 5-6 Eagles are expected to get Jones (hamstring) and
Rasul Douglas (ankle, knee) back Monday. Still, McLeod (knee) and cornerback Ronald Darby (torn ACL) have been lost for the season, while cornerback Jalen Mills (foot) and Maddox remain out.
How decimated was the secondary last week? The Eagles’ defensive backs that combined for 291 snaps against Minnesota accounted for just 65 against the Giants. Maddox could only watch and lament what he might’ve been.
“I ain’t never seen nothing like that,” Maddox said. “It’s a good thing we got a couple guys
back. It’ll be better for us.”
It’ll be even better for the Birds when Maddox plays again.
Prediction: Washington 21, Eagles 20
Ruled out for Monday night’s game are LB Jordan Hicks (calf), Maddox (ankle, knee) and Mills (foot). Those three and T Jason Peters (not injury related/personal) did not practice again Saturday.
Rookie RB Josh Adams (hip) and DE Michael Bennett (foot) are listed as questionable and limited practice participants. It’s unclear what happened with Adams, who showed up on the injury report Saturday for the first time during the week.
Running back Darren Sproles (hamstring) is also questionable despite being a full participant Saturday.
LB Nigel Bradham (thumb), G Brandon Brooks (ankle), Douglas (ankle, knee), DT Tim Jernigan (illness), Jones (hamstring) and Sullivan (shoulder) practiced without restriction.
Eagles free safety Avonte Maddox, seen here after being injured in the Nov. 18 game against the Saints, will miss Monday’s game against Washington.