Maxwell House: Byron’s Fresh Start


Hello, all! I’m extremely pleased to have been welcomed with open arms, or wings rather, to the FanSided family. I’ve joined a strong team of writers that will only push me to work harder, help me improve my skills and prepare me for my future in covering sports. I’d like to thank Ryan Quigley, our new editor, for creating this opportunity for me. I’d also like to congratulate you, Ryan, on your new position here. I really look forward to working with you, and the entire staff of journalists at Inside The Iggles. I’m also reuniting with two of my former colleague from The Runner Sports. One of them is Michael Beaudwin, who is undoubtedly the greatest person to work with. He brings the energy and the passion that Philadelphia fans are known for, and he’s an entertaining writer to say the least. Lastly, there is Nick DeCesare. I’d like to thank you for helping me connect with the editors and ultimately opening the door for me here.

Nick and I started our relationship off on a good note, while colleagues at The Runner Sports, spending nights messaging each other in agreement that the Philadelphia Eagles had made the right offseason moves to position themselves as contenders in the NFC. However, we did not see things through the same eyes on cornerback Byron Maxwell. We wrote a debate article for The Runner Sports, which Michael hosted, and it was about a billion paragraphs shorter than the redundant arguments we had in our group text. Sorry, Mike!

Anyway, the biggest problem with the debate is that it may never be resolved. Nick’s point, and the majority opinion, is that Maxwell is overpaid. To a degree, I can see what they’re saying. Unless Byron Maxwell magically turns into Patrick Peterson or Richard Sherman, he will never truly “live up” to the contract he was given. I know that Maxwell, as far as his pure skill, is not worthy of the same contract that Sherman and Peterson have. However, he’s a cornerback that has specific strengths. The contract that a player is given will not change that player’s skills, so the team that signs said player must understand how they want him to fit into their grand scheme. In the first week of the season, on national television, Maxwell was obliterated by Atlanta Falcons wideout Julio Jones. He was left in a vulnerable spot, and he was taken advantage of. Jones proceeded to tear apart secondaries like a starved bull terrier in the following weeks, making Maxwell’s performance more understandable considering the circumstances. Since the debacle, the former member of Seattle’s “Legion Of Boom” has tightened things up.

In the first game of the season, Maxwell faced a lot of one-on-one coverage against the league’s top receiver. Jones has 80 receptions for over 1,000 yards through his first nine games, so leaving anybody on the island with him is clearly the worst idea. The coaching staff used the season opener as a learning experience, and there have been more bracket coverages deployed in attempt to contain elite wide receivers. When you add in the league’s most dynamic duo of safeties, you give Maxwell a real chance to play to his strengths. He’s aggressive, he plays “downhill” and he doesn’t shy away from a challenge.

“We don’t shy away from nobody.” – Byron Maxwell

Against Atlanta, the Eagles could not generate consistent pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons had a great game plan to stifle the fierce Philadelphia pass rush, and they executed it even better. Since that game, the Eagles have been worlds better in their efforts to rush the quarterback. The time that a quarterback has to throw the football directly affects the success of a secondary, and the entire defensive backfield suffered with the lack of a pass rush. This could be another factor in the emergence of Maxwell, but it is not a valid reason to discredit him for his improved play.

So, how “improved” has Maxwell been? Well, in his last four outings he has given up 107 yards combined and no touchdowns. In that stretch, the Eagles are 3-1 and the defense has allowed opponents to score an average of 19.5 points per game. Maxwell’s most impressive performances came against two of the league’s superstars, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant. Beckham caught both of his two targets for a total of 17 yards against Maxwell, essentially ineffective in the grand scheme of things. Bryant caught one of his two targets for 12 yards, but the referees also called a few (bogus) pass interference penalties on Maxwell at the end of the game. The penalties, phantom to say the least, showed Maxwell’s improvement even though they could have cost the Eagles the game. He was in great position both times, and the second penalty even looked like it would have been an interception if Bryant did not interfere with Maxwell. If Maxwell is going to be a part of the Eagles for the foreseeable future, he’ll have to get used to guarding Bryant and Beckham. So far, he has been able to hold his own against them which is a good sign for the new secondary.

Let’s face it, Maxwell isn’t transforming into Richard Sherman or Patrick Peterson anytime soon. He’ll struggle again, like any player, and he’ll have his fair share of poor performances. With that being said, he is a clear upgrade from anything that the Eagles have had in recent years. Since the departure of Asante Samuel, the position has been on a steady decline until it hit rock bottom (a couple of times). Maxwell brings an attitude to the group, and he excels when he is positioned to play to his strengths. He fits the style of the defense and has strengths that have helped the unit operate the way that they envisioned when they were brought together in the offseason. As a member of the Seahawks, Maxwell was backed by a pair of Pro Bowl safeties and excelled. Now, in Philadelphia, one could argue that he is in an eerily similar situation on that front. The most important thing is that he isn’t afraid to be himself. He is a candid sports figure who really loves the game of football. He has worked hard all season to improve his technique, and now it is really starting to show as the secondary is meshing together. Although it wasn’t the most ideal situation financially, the $63 million investment in Maxwell helped vastly improve a historically bad bunch from a year ago. As long as the results continue to trend upward, that can be considered money well spent.