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Maddox ready to play safety in wild card game if Eagles need him

Eagles defensive back Avonte Maddox is ready to play safety if the Eagles need him there in the playoffs.

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After a couple injuries in Week 18, the Eagles are preparing veteran defensive back Avonte Maddox to play safety in their wild-card round game in Tampa on Monday.

Maddox, 27, has been taking reps safety reps at practice this week. 

“It definitely could be a possibility,” Maddox said. “I’ve been ready for it. I’ve been working on it every time I come out since I’ve been out there on the field. I’m pretty comfortable at safety. I’ve played it a lot throughout my career. It’s not like it would be brand new to me.”

In Week 18, Eagles starting safety Reed Blankenship suffered a groin injury and has missed the first two days of practice this week. And rookie Sydney Brown suffered a torn ACL. The only safety left on the 53-man roster is veteran Kevin Byard.

That’s where Maddox’s versatility comes into play.

Like Maddox mentioned, this wouldn’t be new for him. Maddox is in his sixth NFL season and has shown off his versatility before. In fact, he was actually playing some safety in Week 2 when he suffered a torn pec that kept him on the shelf for most of this season.

Maddox returned a couple weeks ago and has been working to shake the rust off. Now, he might need to line up next to Byard in a playoff game on Monday night.

“He’s been back there with me,” Byard said. “But they’re also going to work some other guys in there as well at least during practice. But I think Avonte’s going to be out there with me. He’s a vet, he’s been in this league for a while. He’s played safety as well. That’s a pretty easy transition. Obviously, Reed’s a really good player. But I feel pretty confident with Avonte back there we’ll be able to defend things pretty good.”

The reason playing Maddox at safety is a somewhat attractive option is because the Eagles have more depth at slot corner than they do at safety. Their next safety up would be practice squad player Tristin McCollum. But the Eagles have veteran Bradley Roby and rookie Eli Ricks prepared to play nickel corner if Maddox is back at safety.

And even though Maddox has primary been a nickel corner during his NFL career, he makes sure to always be prepared to play safety if the team needs him. Maddox said he often mixes in with the safeties during individual drills in practice even when there aren’t injuries.

“Definitely being able to play multiple positions is good,” Maddox said. “[Byard] is back there so he’s a huge help. When it comes to learning, I could ask him anything and he has an answer for me. And Reed too. Me and him sit right next to each other in meetings and we’re always going over what the nickel and safety does anyway. So it’s not like it’s brand new.”

This has been a bit of a disappointing season for Maddox because he missed most of it. Maddox tore his pec against the Vikings in Week 2 and needed surgery so he missed 13 games in the middle of this season.

He returned on New Year’s Eve against the Cardinals and played 29 snaps and then played 28 snaps last weekend. Even Maddox admitted he could see some of the rust on tape, but of course he was going to be a bit rusty.

Maddox is just hoping he got all of that rust out before the playoffs.

“Oh yeah, of course,” Maddox said. “It’s tough for anybody that missed 13 games and just come back out there and shine. Usually it just don’t work like that. Everything is moving fast, you gotta slow it down. Just getting back into the feel of the game. I needed that the first week I got back and now I just feel more comfortable.”

The good news is that Maddox thinks he’s trending in the right direction. He thought he looked way more patient in his second game back than his first. He just wants that to continue in the playoffs.

The Eagles’ defense for much of the season, especially lately, has really struggled. They have a lot of problems but one of them is the lack of big plays. When Maddox is healthy, he’s capable of making big plays.

And that’s from either of his two positions.

“The chemistry has been good, the communication’s been great,” Byard said. “It’ll be fun to see how things turn out in the game for sure.”

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