PHILADELPHIA – Class is in session for the Eagles cornerback group, with Darius Slay and Steve Nelson in professor roles.
After acquiring Kary Vincent, Jr., from the Broncos at the trade deadline, the Eagles now have four rookies on the roster at that position. Joining Vincent are Zech McPhearson, Tay Gowan, and Mac McCain.
Slay and Nelson, of course, are the veterans, and they will be counted on to help develop the young guys, as will position coach Dennard Wilson and assistant DB coach D.K. McDonald.
“It’s cool, man,” said Slay on Wednesday as the Eagles (3-5) prepare to host the Los Angeles Chargers (4-3) on Sunday (4:05 p.m./CBS).
“I like seeing them young bucks learning, teaching them how to be a pro. I was a rookie once before, so I had to go through my process. But those guys there, man, I’m going to do the best I can to help them be a great pro.”
The Eagles have nine cornerbacks on the roster and another, Andre Chachere who is listed as a defensive back.
That’s a lot of cornerbacks for defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon to sort through, and maybe he will.
A couple of weeks ago, the DC said that he didn’t play dime defense. He didn’t say why but that could have been because there weren’t that many from which to choose.
That has changed, and when you consider that four quarterbacks have already completed 80 percent of their throws against the Eagles this year, including Raiders’ passer Derek Carr just two weeks ago, perhaps there could be some six DB looks against the Chargers’ Justin Herbert, who has the ability to be the fifth QB to throw for an 80-plus percentage.
“The premium position like that, corners, there are so many teams that don't have corner depth,” said head coach Nick Sirianni. “So, just like we think about with the offense and defensive line, that's another position right there at cornerback that we want to build depth on and want to get the young players in that we feel good about.
“…Just think that's such a premium position that you want that depth. You want options right there to be able to develop into it.”
That’s where Slay and Nelson can help bigtime.
Slay has started 116 NFL games and played in 126.
Nelson has started 76, played in 90.
That’s a ton of experience to impart.
“What a valuable asset it is for the guy that you're trying to teach, to actually go and ask the guy that's been lining up in that position,” said Sirianni. “It's such a big asset to have. When you made a lot of plays in this league and you've done it for a long time, your words carry more weight. That's definitely the case with Slay and with Steven.”
Slay, for one, doesn’t feel threatened by the young bucks.
“Nah, I ain’t worrying about them coming for me,” he said. “That’s the last thing I worry about, competing with a guy. I just want nothing but the best for everybody, so the best man always wins.”
Slay said he doesn’t wait for the youngsters to come to him with questions.
“I go to them and tell them what it is,” he said. “I say, ‘This is why I’m doing it.’ Some don’t know why that is. Some rookies are shy, afraid to talk. So, I’ll come up to them and let them know that I’m an open book, and I’ll come up here and teach you how to play this game and help you become a pro.”
Sooner or later, it will be their turn, with Slay on a contract that calls for salary cap hits of $22 million and $23M over the next two years, and Nelson signed to only a one-year contract.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.