RENTON — Andre Dillard figures to start again for the Eagles on Sunday against the Seahawks, a rookie whose stock is regarded as on the rise a little bit more with each week.
Sidney Jones may well again watch from the sidelines as a healthy inactive, a third-year player whose NFL career seems more uncertain by the day.
It’s a juxtaposition of fate for two players with local ties — Dillard a former Woodinville High star and Washington State graduate, Jones a former University of Washington standout — that few could have anticipated three or four years ago.
Jones was the player who became a starter three games into his true freshman season at Washington, emerging as an all-conference player by his sophomore year and headed to the NFL after his junior season.
Dillard famously had only one offer from a non-FCS school, and weighing just 240 pounds when he enrolled at WSU, spent his first year as a redshirt gaining weight and his second barely playing before finally breaking into the lineup in 2016 as a sophomore — the same year Jones was being hailed as an almost-certain first-round pick.
Jones’ career, though, took a cruel turn when he suffered an Achilles injury during his pro day workout at UW in 2017.
He fell to the No. 43 pick in the second round by the Eagles and by the time he recovered from that injury well enough to help a Philadelphia team headed to the Super Bowl, he suffered a hamstring injury in his first game, an issue that has bothered him ever since.
Jones played just nine games last year while dealing with the hamstring, starting four.
The hope was that he was past that this season and could finally play like the first-round pick everyone thought he was when he was a founding member of the Death Row secondary.
Instead, the hamstring has continued to be an issue. And now that he is apparently healthy, others have stepped in — the Eagles seem content for now to go with Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby as their starting corners with Rasul Douglas as the backup.
Jones has not played since the Eagles’ win over Buffalo on Oct. 27 and was a healthy scratch for a game against the Bears on Nov. 3. He was active for the loss against the Patriots last week but did not play.
“You just gotta stay positive through it all,” Jones told Delaware Online last week. “It’s adversity. Everybody has their struggles at some point in life. … At the end of the day, it’s going to make me better as a player, a better person, all of that. You just take the lesson from it, and get better.”
In a conference call with Seattle media Wednesday, Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Jones has practiced well of late and said he is regaining his confidence.
“I think early in the season it was a little up and down with him because he was battling through some injuries and he was in the lineup and out of the lineup, he was deactivated, he was up, this and that,’’ Pederson said. “But he’s healthy now. He’s practicing well. He’s doing some good things and that’s just what it takes.’’
But if Jones’ status for this week is in question, Wednesday’s news that veteran Lane Johnson remains out while in the concussion protocol increased the chances that Dillard will have to start in his place (Johnson was one of two Eagles players officially listed as out for practice on Wednesday, the other being receiver Nelson Agholor, with a knee issue).
Dillard has also started against Dallas, Buffalo and Chicago at left tackle in place of injured Jason Peters.
Now he figures to move to the other side if Johnson — who was injured against the Patriots — cannot make it back.
“Gosh, he has been a bright spot for our offense,’’ Pederson said.
That Dillard could be starting now is no longer a surprise given his emergence in his final years at WSU, the only school other than Idaho, Portland State and Eastern Washington to offer him a scholarship (his dad, Mitch, played for WSU in the ‘80s).
Still, if Dillard’s athleticism was not a question entering the draft, some wondered how quickly he’d adjust from the Air Raid system to a more conventional NFL offense.
But Pederson said Dillard pretty quickly passed that test.
“He was pretty ready,’’ Pederson said. “Obviously in the passing game, coming out of that system there at Washington State, they throw the ball quite a bit there. His pass protection was good. I think one of the things that any offensive lineman has to really adjust to is the different style of run game. … It just takes some time to get used to, but he’s done a really nice job.’’