One of the biggest questions Eagles fans were throwing out there at the beginning of the offseason was whether the Eagles were going to get a high caliber corner to match up with Pro Bowler Darius Slay/
It appears the Eagles may have answered that question when they signed cornerback Steven Nelson just before training camp opened.
On March 23, 2021, the Steelers, at Nelson's request, terminated his contract. Nelson did not receive much interest which was somewhat of a surprise. So, on July 25, 2021, Nelson agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Birds.
Watching Slay (make sure you call him that) and Nelson the practice field, it looks like they’ve been playing together for years.
At a recent press gathering Slay was asked about the chemistry the two have generated together.
“It’s going good, we fit right in,” Slay said. “We’ve been doing a good job communicating. One good thing is both can listen. We both can listen to each other. There’s nobody bigger than the other. Any pointers he’s got for me, I listen. Any pointers I’ve got for him, he listens. Both our goals are to be the best we can possibly be and the best for each other. That’s a real positive thing being in this group.”
Another positive in the secondary is the play of rookie Zech McPhearson, who was drafted in the fourth round out of Tech Tech. The All Pro, three-time Pro Bowler said he likes the kid as well.
“Rook’s been good,” Slay said. “He’s been getting his hands on the ball. He’s competing right now. I’ve been working with him right now with some technique stuff. Trying to make him the best he can be. It’s a good thing he likes to listen and learn. It’s hard to find rookies who are willing to learn.”
Slay knows that for the Eagles to have success this year, the defense must play well, especially the secondary. Slay knows in order to accomplish that, McPhearson will have to grow up fast. Slay said they are not going to treat him like a rookie; they do not want him overwhelmed.
“We make sure he isn’t fazed,” Slay said. “As a room, we make him feel comfortable. That’s what we do as a group. That’s what we do as a group…me Rod (safety Rodney McLeod) and some of the guys that are leaders. We want them to feel comfortable, go out there and play ball freely.”
Preseason games, did he miss them?
“I did, a little bit,” said Slay, who started against the Steelers last week in the preseason opener, but did not record a single stat. “It just gets you going. It gives you that competitive edge and get the feel of the game. Last was bad because of COVID. It also has a lot to do with conditioning because we’ve got to do a lot of things to get right. This year’s a lot different. I’m looking forward to the preseason and a couple of series, a couple of reps, however it works. I’ll be needing it.”
What does he have left to work on at 30 years of age?
“A lot of things, technique-wide,” Slay said. “There’s nothing about the game I don’t know. I’m not the smartest guy in the world. The only thing I do know is to keep working hard and I’m going to reach my goal, the goals I want to reach. I like to work hard. I want to be the best at this game. I want to be the best in the game. Guys in my room motivate me all the time to be the best. And I want to be the best for them. I go out there with a chip on my shoulder with my name on my back, my family, my teammates and the man above. I just pride myself on working hard.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii