Flying Under the Radar: Avonte Maddox has found his role on this Eagles defense
After a heavily criticized 2020 campaign, Avonte Maddox quietly is having a terrific season as the nickel cornerback. Last year, Maddox finished with an abysmal 37.1 PFF coverage grade, the worst on the team aside from Davion Taylor (27.0). However, Avonte played the 12th most total snaps on defense in 2020 with 509, while Davion played only 33.
The 2018 fourth-round pick projected as more of a slot guy given his tackling ability and lack of top-end speed. In those 509 defensive snaps, Maddox played outside corner over 78% of the time and lined up at nickel less than 6% in 2020.
Despite the defense becoming a liability this season, Avonte Maddox seems to have found a role that suits his playstyle. In his 171 total snaps this season, he’s played slot 79.5% of the time while lining up as an outside corner only three times.
Not only does Avonte Maddox have the team’s highest PFF tackling grade (88.9), he’s flipped the script now with the team’s highest PFF coverage grade (69.4, minimum ten coverage snaps). Maddox hasn’t missed a single tackle all season and is currently 6th on the team with 14 solo tackles and tied for 4th with 7 STOPs. On top of his sure-fire tackling, Maddox also has a sack and QB hurry this season, furthering the sentiment that he can become a highly versatile nickel/box defender.
The most significant improvement in Maddox’s game seems to be his comfortability playing the nickel spot and how that has affected his coverage. It can only go up from a 37.1 coverage grade, but the Pittsburgh product has excelled in his new role.
Avonte Maddox has been targeted 14 times on the year (5th most) and has allowed ten catches. A 71.4% catch rate isn’t the best stat for a cornerback, but those ten catches allowed have gone for only 73 yards. Maddox allows just 7.3 yards/reception, and the longest pass surrendered against him went for 11 yards. I’m not saying that Maddox is now a premier nickel cornerback as there is still a ton of work to be done. But the bounce-back mentality after an awful year from a young player is a very encouraging sign.
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Eagles