Oftentimes a change of scenery is all that’s needed for a football player to realize his potential, and while it is still extremely early, the Jaguars could have found one in cornerback Sidney Jones.
Last Sunday, Jones became the team’s starting cornerback on the boundary of the defense due to both cornerback CJ Henderson and nickel cornerback D.J. Hayden being out due to various injuries. In his true Jaguars’ debut, Jones put on a show, accounting for three pass breakups and one interception earning him a grade of 91.7 on Pro Football Focus, one of the top grades across the board.
Highest NFL Cornerback PFF Grades for 2020:— WestCoastCFB (@WestCoastCFB) October 13, 2020
1. Sidney Jones - 91.9
2. Jaire Alexander - 90.9
3. James Bradberry - 85.7
Jones was also the only Jaguars defender with 4+ passes defensed over the last three seasons.
Interception by @Jaguars S Jarrod Wilson, who returned off IR yesterday.@SidneyJonesIV credited with his fourth pass defensed of the game on the INT -- only @Jaguars player with 4+ passes defensed over the last three seasons.— Tad Dickman (@TDickman89) October 11, 2020
Just prior to the season beginning, Jones was released by the team that originally drafted him in the Philadelphia Eagles. Drafted out of Washington, Jones was selected in the second round, and with that comes high expectations. Over the first three years of his career, however, Jones struggled whether it be due to injuries or simply poor play.
Now in Jacksonville, it appears he’s heading on the right track, and his head coach, Doug Marrone, is taking notice.
“I think he had an opportunity, came in, and did some good things,” Marrone said of Jones shortly following team’s 30-14 loss against the Texas on Sunday.
“So we’ll go back and look at it. I think, he’s a guy that came in here and he’s been bouncing around a little bit and he’s worked really hard and I was happy to see him. He almost got the pick on the one. They went to undercut it, got his hand on the football. But I think it was good to see him out there and I think that he is someone that can help us down the road now.”
The Jaguars will need Jones moving forward. While the team does still have Henderson potentially returning this week against the Detroit Lions, the depth behind him and cornerback Tre Herndon, who has now moved to the nickel position in Hayden’s absence, is young and inexperienced.
Smoot gets the deflection and Sidney Jones makes a great play on the ball. He got the start today and has shined pic.twitter.com/033sOtLDi6— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) October 11, 2020
Entering Sunday’s game against the Texans, the Jaguars’ secondary had intercepted the football just twice, both interceptions came during the team’s Week 1 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. They’ve also given up some of the best passing performances in the league, allowing opposing quarterbacks to essentially fire at will.
Against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, Jones was responsible for both interceptions; one he picked off on his own, and the other he instinctively tipped to safety Jarrod Wilson. While the Jaguars’ offense didn’t take advantage of the takeaways, Jones provided a spark the team’s secondary hasn’t seen in quite some time and Marrone wants it to happen more consistently as the team moves throughout its season.
Texans turn it right back over on a Watson tipped pass. Incredible play by Sidney Jones. pic.twitter.com/qDoVXWNs76— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) October 11, 2020
“I think those are things which you’re looking for to get yourself off the field, creating turnovers,” Marrone said on Monday. “We created two, I thought they were two really good plays. Great hustle play by Jarrod Wilson coming over, great play by Sidney to do that. I think those are things you have to do and do it consistently.”
At 6-foot, 180 pounds, Jones is an ideal fit as an outside cornerback in defensive coordinator Todd Wash’s defense. He possess the traits needed to be successful, and Wilson took note of his performance.
“He came to play,” Wilson said shortly after the game on Sunday. “Really big, physical corner. Just now being on the team for about a month now. He wasn’t really with us during the training camp and everything, but had an amazing game, got his hands on a couple footballs and definitely contributed to us having both turnovers on defense. He had a really good game.”
Moving forward, look for the Jaguars to continue using Jones as their primary boundary defender, even with Henderson likely returning to the lineup this week