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Why Eagles draft pick could be long-term gem on special teams


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Why Eagles draft pick could be long-term gem on special teams

Updated May 20, 2021; Posted May 20, 2021
Zech McPherson

Philadelphia Eagles CB Zech McPherson, pictured as a member of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown against Iowa State in 2020.

It was a gimme, a chip shot.
Iowa State’s field-goal unit lined up for a 20-yard attempt to take a 3-0 lead over Texas Tech in the first quarter of their mid-October matchup. The ball was snapped, and that’s when everything got turned on its head.
Eli Howard, a defensive lineman, quickly barreled through protection and blocked the field-goal attempt. Zech McPhearson, the Eagles’ fourth-round pick, was unblocked as he came off the edge and collected the ball with nothing but grass in front of him.
McPhearson returned the ball 90 yards for a Texas Tech touchdown.
That 10-point swing on special teams is an example of how McPhearson can impact games by doing the work that is often forgotten by spectators.
"That’s when you can really change the game and it can help the team in the long run,” McPhearson said. "I really started taking a lot of pride in field-goal blocking. You can definitely make some plays and that’s what we were able to do down at Tech.”
Along with his touchdown against Iowa State, McPhearson blocked two extra-point attempts while playing for the Red Raiders. The cornerback was a captain on defense, but his work on special teams is what made him a true difference-maker.
Now, as an Eagles rookie, special teams could be McPhearson’s most important job in Philadelphia. While he will get an opportunity to compete for the chance to start opposite Darius Slay at corner, McPhearson will almost assuredly play on special teams during his early NFL career.
He embraces that challenge.
"That’s something you’ve got to do,” McPhearson said. "Especially being a DB, just being able to be versatile on special teams and helping out where you can.”
McPhearson has the makings of a core-four special teams ace. The 5-foot-11, 191-pound defensive back has the athleticism and football IQ to make a mark in the third phase.
New special teams coordinator Michael Clay is likely to use McPhearson as a regular on the kickoff coverage and field-goal blocking units, based on his college production in both areas.
Being able to play on multiple units will help McPhearson get on the field early, even if he’s only a reserve player on defense.
"You have to be versatile in this game,” McPhearson said. "You can’t just restrict yourself to being one-dimensional.”
The Eagles have a long history of having notable defensive players work on special teams.
Free safety Rodney McLeod, a team captain, is often seen leading the charge on kickoff coverage, despite his major role on defense. McPhearson could follow in McLeod’s footsteps.
Special teams can be a gateway to playing time, and McPhearson is ready to answer the call.
"It’s a part of the game,” McPhearson said, "that I value really highly.”

https://www.nj.com/eagles/2021/05/why-eagles-draft-pick-could-be-long-term-gem-on-special-teams.html#:~:text=“That's when you can really,to do down at Tech.”

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