“This was just one of those moments. I had my opportunity, even if it was one play. It was a very memorable play in my career.”
Sidney Jones figured he’d be making plenty of plays in his third year with the Eagles.
A second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Washington, Jones would’ve gone in the first round if not for a ruptured Achilles that sidelined him for most of his rookie year. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman believed Jones would be an affect player at cornerback.
While it hasn’t worked out the way, Jones indeed made a play in Monday night’s 23-17 victory over the Giants — and a big one at that — on his only defensive snap.
The Giants clearly went at Jones with a wideout who had 154 receiving yards and two touchdowns, but he got the job done.
Jones insisted that he was calm and businesslike despite the circumstances. The Eagles were trying to halt a three-game skid and tie the Cowboys at 6-7 atop the mediocre NFC East.
“Everybody’s got to fight,” Jones said afterward. “We’re all scratching and clawing. I just stepped out there and (was thinking) ‘whatever happens, happens.’ It was a good play.”
On what turned out to be Jones’ most important play as an Eagle, he was in tight coverage because he expected the slant route that Manning likes to throw.
Jones wouldn’t have been on the field if starter Jalen Mills and backup Rasul Douglas didn’t get hurt. In fact, it was Jones’ first defensive snap in five weeks — in two of those games, the Eagles chose to deactivate a healthy Jones.
“It’s been a little bit of a struggle. I’m not going to lie,” Jones said. “It kind of almost messes with you not knowing if you’re not going to play or play. You’ve got to block all that out and focus on every week getting better, no matter if you’re in the game plan or not.
“I’m on scout team getting better all the time and taking those reps and just being sharp every week, staying focused and coming to work. ... Practice is still a great opportunity to get better. “ Veteran safety Rodney McLeod credits Jones for staying ready and engaged despite his limited role.
“It’s hard, man, to come off the bench cold, not getting one snap in the fourth quarter in a critical situation that we need,” McLeod said. “That’s just him locking in and being available and also staying in the game.
“There’s a lot of times when we come to the sideline and make adjustments. He’s right there, still involved. That was him going out and showing up. He paid attention to some of the plays they ran earlier.”
Jones began the season as a regular in the secondary, starting three of the first four games and intercepting a Matt Ryan pass in a Week 2 loss to the Falcons. He hurt his hamstring early in the Week 4 victory at Green Bay, missed the win over the Jets and struggled mightily in a Week 6 drubbing by the Vikings. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz replaced Jones with newcomer Craig James late in the Minnesota contest.
Jones didn’t play at all the next week vs. Dallas and has received a total of 49 defensive snaps in the past seven games, 48 of which came against the Bills when injuries essentially forced Schwartz to use him as the nickel corner.
It’s unclear what Jones’ effect will be going forward, but he gave the Birds a big boost at a crucial time Monday night.
“(It was a) great opportunity to create a legacy as a team and an individual,” Jones said. “This was just one of those moments. I had my opportunity, even if it was one play. It was a very memorable play in my career.”
There’s no doubt about it.
Tom Moore: email@example.com; @TomMoorePhilly