There was a touch of rust to knock off, Sidney Jones, admits, and when he watched the tape of Sunday’s season-opening win over Washington he saw things he liked and he saw things he didn’t like very much. But at the end of the day, Jones had a positive experience and is moving forward and heads into this prime-time game against Atlanta feeling that he’s headed in the right direction.
“I would say that, and that is my goal every day,” Jones said on Wednesday following practice at the NovaCare Complex. “I’m getting there. I’ve got a lot of confidence. I know that I’m not going to make every play. I know that I’m going to get beat sometimes. I just have to bounce right back when those things happen.
“Some good, some bad, and I hate the bad. The bad was bad for me when you look at the tape. But it was the first game and it was my first couple of series and I was getting settled in. All I can do is move on from it.”
Jones gave up some receptions on Sunday to Washington and he nearly gave up a home run on a pass ultimately overthrown by quarterback Case Keenum, but he also got the defense off the field a couple of times with pass breakups on third downs, so the mixed-bag day was kind of just what it was for Week 1.
In Week 2, Jones expects to be a better player.
“It’s all about correcting mistakes. We all had our fair share of mistakes and so we need to take that and then dominate this week. I think this whole game is mental. Everybody is talented. Everybody has the ability. It’s just having that mental confidence that you can do it, that you can be the best version of yourself on every play and not doubt yourself or doubt anything," Jones said.
“You’ve got to have that confidence from a self standpoint and from a team standpoint and just believe.”
The mental game has been a tough one for Jones since tearing his Achilles tendon prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, just as much as it’s been a physical challenge to overcome the injury. Now in his third season, Jones believes he is rounding into the player he knows he can be. And, maybe this is a stretch and maybe it’s not, Jones’ development is vital to the Eagles in terms of their overall success on defense.
If he gets to that next level, that level where he knows he believes, Jones gives the Eagles a top-shelf cornerback who is fluid and who matches up with any kind of receiver. Ronald Darby has his skills and runs and turns and closes as well as anybody, and Avonte Maddox is a skilled all-around cover man who is terrific, especially in the slot, and Rasul Douglas is a big-bodied, sure-tackling cornerback who makes big plays. But Jones has a skill set that is more well rounded than all of them.
Had Jones not suffered the Achilles tendon injury, he would have likely been a first-round draft pick in 2017. As it was, the Eagles took him in the second round, gave him a full season to rehabilitate the injury, and have seen Jones slowed down last year with a recurring hamstring injury before he earned a starting outside job this season.
So, yeah, it’s fair to say that it’s Jones’ time. Right now. Right here.
“That’s what I’m working for. I’m making progress. I know I am. Sometimes it’s slower than I want, but I’m getting there,” Jones said. “I’m keeping my attitude positive and I’m working hard. I love the challenge.”
Good thing he does, because on Sunday night the Eagles have the considerable task of containing Atlanta’s explosive receiving tandem of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, who Jones says is a “top-three” one-two wide receiver duo in the NFL.
“Very, very good,” he said. “Two very explosive players. When I look at them on tape, they are very explosive players, fast, good ability, all-around players. So, we’ve got to step up. We need to challenge them, we need to compete, we need to pressure the quarterback, and play as a team. That would help everything.”
Jones is in the spotlight on Sunday night because, let’s face it, the Falcons played a dud of a game last week in a 28-12 loss at Minnesota and they’re angry and they want to make a statement in their home opener. They’re going to get the ball to Julio Jones. He’s going to make plays. Ridley is an ascending star.
This is a pressure moment for Sidney Jones.
“I know what’s in front of me and I’m excited about it,” he said. “If I want to get where I want to be, these are the matchups I want. I know how good those guys are. I have to be at my best. We all do. That’s a very good offense on the other side of the ball.”