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McPhearson details position switch that could help him and Eagles


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McPhearson details position switch that could help him and Eagles

Zech McPhearson is playing a new position this summer in a move that could pay off for him and the team

By Dave Zangaro  Published August 1, 2023


In his two years in the NFL, defensive back Zech McPhearson hasn’t gotten to play all that much on defense.

And when he has, it certainly hasn’t come as a nickel corner.

In fact, the 25-year-old McPhearson has played a total of 278 defensive snaps in his two-year career and exactly one of those has come in the slot, according to ProFootball Focus.

But starting in the spring and continuing in training camp this summer, McPhearson has been lining up exclusively as a nickel cornerback.

"The move to the slot has been going well,” McPhearson said earlier this week. "I’ve really been enjoying it. I’m trying to take advantage of every rep. Definitely, the predicament I’ve been in the last two years, just trying to find a way to work and see the field and any way to help the team. 

"So far, the transition’s been going well. Taking it one day at a time and I’m always ready to bounce back out to corner whenever needed there as well.”

When McPhearson (5-11, 191) talks about the predicament he’s been in the last two years, he’s referencing how tough it has been for him to find game action. While the 2021 fourth-round pick from Texas Tech has turned into a nice special teamer (he led the Eagles in special teams snaps in 2022) and he’s been solid when asked to play defense, the guys in front of him have mostly stayed healthy.

Two years ago, Darius Slay and Steven Nelson didn’t miss much time and ditto for last year’s starters, Slay and James Bradberry.

Meanwhile, nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox missed eight games last season with three different injuries and the Eagles definitely suffered when he was out. So this move could be beneficial McPhearson and the Eagles.

Strangely enough, the Eagles have two starting outside cornerbacks who will be over 30 when the 2023 season begins but because of Maddox’s injury history, the best chance McPhearson might have to play is as a nickel. Not to mention, the Eagles added veteran Greedy Williams and drafted Kelee Ringo this offseason to bolster their outside corner depth.

As training camp began this summer, not only was McPhearson playing the nickel but Maddox (toe) has been limited. So McPhearson has gotten the bulk of the first-team reps at his position, even ahead of Josiah Scott, who has played nickel for the Eagles in the past couple of seasons.

"Yeah, we try to get some guys to be flexible with their positions,” Eagles DBs coach D.K. McDonald said this spring. "Try to platoon them a little bit. And that’s what we’re doing with him because he is a good cover guy. When you go back and watch his college film, too, that’s what he did. He played a little bit of nickel in there. Just trying to create more opportunities, one, for him to get on the field. But, two, just to make sure that we’ve got guys ready to go there.”

McPhearson did play some nickel cornerback in college but that was a few years ago. While reporters first saw McPhearson in the slot this spring, he actually began working their about midway through the 2022 season in developmental drills and in 7-on-7s.

So it’s not like playing nickel is completely foreign to McPhearson, but there’s no denying it’s a very different position.

"It’s definitely a different ballgame on the inside,” McPhearson said. "You gotta be very dialed in. Obviously, outside too. But inside is a lot of different techniques that you’ve got to be honed in on. That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on moving into the slot.”

At least McPhearson has plenty of help this summer as he picks back up with playing in the slot. The Eagles this offseason hired Ronell Williams to be their nickels coach. He’s the first nickels coach in team history.

"It helps a lot,” McPhearson said. "It’s another addition to the room. Now, we got three coaches in the room. Having a nickels coach, strictly focused on nickel, it definitely takes the workload off of having one single coach doing every position, safety, corner and nickel. It helps a lot. I’ve got somebody you can just go up to, call to just strictly for nickel things.”


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