Good health has Sidney Jones feeling confident again, and it is showing

Ed Kracz

Three days of Eagles training camp practices are in the books and Sidney Jones keeps on writing his own chapters.

As of now, they have been very good reads, full of action and success, with some pass breaks ups and an interception. The cornerback looks much more confident than he has in the past, and he is. He’ll tell you that the big reason for that is that he is fully healthy.

“I feel great, best I ever felt,” said Jones. “This past month I had off (before training camp began) I just hit it hard, stacked a lot of good days. It felt good. I didn’t have anything go wrong during OTAs or in the summer. It’s grind time now.

“I never felt where I was during this break. I never really felt totally healthy to hit it super hard the last two years. I always felt like I was managing something and had to be careful with what I did. This summer I was able to hit everything hard and I’m going to make this year a better story because I hopefully don’ t have anything to stop me.”

Jones is squarely in the crosshairs of impatient Eagles fans already thinking that Jones is a bust after being taken in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft despite tearing an Achilles a few weeks before the draft during a pro day workout at the University of Washington.

VIDEO: Sidney Jones talks about how healthy he is feeling

That injury washed all of Jones’ rookie season, except for one meaningless game against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.

“Every year is important,” he said. “This year is very important, though. I don’t count my rookie year because I didn’t play. Everybody looks at that first year like, ‘Oh he’s been in the league for two years and hasn’t done nothing.’ Last year was my first year. I was a rookie (last year), that’s how I look at it.

“I battled through some injuries, but now know what I can do. If I’m healthy, I feel confident in myself.”

Jones played a good deal of last year with a nagging hamstring injury that he said never left him playing at 100 percent. He tried playing through it, but struggled. He took a few games off then tried to return, but returned too soon and the hammy wasn’t fully healed.

“Everybody was giving me shit about it,” said Jones. “I came back too early and really struggled. I put myself on the line for my team because we were short. That’s a football mentality, but it didn’t help me.

“The body and mind wants to play, but the body wasn’t ready. Maybe in college you get away with 70 percent or something but in the NFL everybody’s getting paid. That’s a big difference. My body just wasn’t where it needed to be.”

In Thursday’s first training camp practice, Jones broke up a pass from Nate Sudfeld to Marken Michel. On Friday, he swatted away a pass from Carson Wentz to Michel. On Saturday, he intercepted a deep sideline throw from Sudfeld to Mack Hollins. It was a juggling pick that led to some cheers from the crowd.

“Sidney is playing really well,” said defensive backfield mate Avonte Maddox. “He made some good plays. We’re just flip-flopping back and forth, playing where we need to play. That’s the good thing about it, being able to play multiple positions.”

That’s another thing about Jones’ play last year. Not only did the hamstring sabotage him, but so did having to learn to play nickel, a position he never played in college. Some guys are able to pick position changes up quickly, others take time to understand the nuances of it.

“Last year I was like, man, I had to go back and forth from nickel to corner, I wasn’t able to really perfect one,” said Jones. “So from the standpoint from me playing nickel last year and getting those reps under my belt then I go and play, at least 90 percent of my snaps in OTAs were at corner, and I felt like I made major improvements there, so being able to now have both of those and being comfortable to know what I’m actually doing, I can go and play nickel and corner now and not think twice about it.

“In the game I can be at corner, somebody comes in then I bump into nickel, now I know what to do. I’m looking at Jenk (Malcolm Jenkins) last year like, dang, how does he do it? But now I have that comfortability. I’m not really thinking as much now.”

Not thinking and staying healthy. If this continues, Jones’ story could be the best seller many predicted when he was thought to be a top 10 overall pick coming out of college – until he tore his Achilles.