When the Eagles used their second round pick in the 2017 NFL draft on cornerback Sidney Jones they took a risk - a risk that is about to yield its first return on investment.
Jones was arguably the best cornerback prospect in the draft prior to rupturing his achilles tendon at his pro day. Jones went from being in consideration for a top-10 pick to sliding out of the first round and falling to the Eagles with their second round selection.
The Eagles consistently expressed that the plan with jones was to exercise caution, and not put Jones in a game until they felt that he was back at full health.
It appears that Jones has reached that benchmarks after reading the tea leaves that have come out over the last day.
The first hint came when head coach Doug Pederson informed the media that the team has not made a decision on Sidney Jones's availability:
Pederson said "wait and see" on Sidney Jones being activated.— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) December 29, 2017
"It's not ruled out. It hasn't been ruled out."
The decision to play Sidney Jones appeared to be verified (without any official word) when the Eagles placed linebacker Joe Walker on injured reserve:
Roster Move: #Eagles place LB Joe Walker (neck) on Injured Reserve.— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 29, 2017
Placing Walker on injured reserve allows the Eagles to open up a roster spot without having to cut any players. Jones was not on the active roster as of today, but he would be once he is activated from the non-football injury list. Shutting down Walker - who had missed the last few weeks - allows the Eagles to keep Jones with the team during the playoffs.
If Jones was not activated before the playoffs he would not be eligible to practice during the Eagles' playoff run. For a player that has missed almost his entire rookie season, the extra weeks of practice in the playoffs will be invaluable.
The biggest deciding factor in Jones's impending debut is that he has shown promise in practice since beginning his participation prior to week 15:
Sidney Jones has really impressed the #Eagles in practice the last two weeks. Jalen Mills says Sidney’s ability to get up on the line and play press coverage has been eye opening.— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) December 29, 2017
In addition to Jones playing his first NFL game, the Eagles' starters will also play against the Dallas Cowboys in a meaningless game in terms of playoff implications.
Pederson said that he will go off of feel for deciding when to pull the starters, and added that Brandon Graham will likely not play as a precaution after getting banged up against the Raiders.
It will be vital for the starters to get out of the game quick to not only prevent injury to any more key players, but also to get Nate Sudfeld his first career action in an NFL game in the event that Nick Foles gets injured in the playoffs.