PHILADELPHIA – Hawaii is a nice place to be at the end of January, especially for anyone in the northeast part of the country, but for Zech McPhearson it was particularly pleasing.
It was there that the future Eagles draft pick opened some eyes, especially those belonging to some of the organization’s personnel on hand and one CBS analyst, Brian Baldinger, during practices leading up to the Jan. 31 Hula Bowl.
Baldy laid eyes on McPhearson and began texting some of his friends in both the personnel departments of the Eagles and the New York Jets.
“I remember Rex Ryan is the (Hula Bowl) coach on one side and I asked him, ‘Who do you like?’” said Baldinger. “He said, ‘That McPhearson, man, that guy can flat-out run. He can play corner for me.’"
“He’s a big corner," Baldinger added. "I think he’s going to have a chance to start. I said to my buddies with the Eagles if you get three starters out of this draft, the way the Washington Football Team did a year ago, I think you can turn this thing around.”
The Eagles liked enough of what they saw from the 5-11, 190-pound McPhearson that they drafted him in the fourth round, the 123rd player taken overall. He was the only cornerback they picked at a position that they haven't been able to adequately solve for several years now.
Certainly, the biggest issue surrounding the Eagles as they continue with their early summer vacation – aside from the competition to start at left tackle – is the second cornerback spot behind Darius Slay, as in, who the heck will it be?
As expected, Dennard Wilson didn’t shed much light on it during his Wednesday videoconference.
“If you look around the league, every corner is different,” Wilson said. “You have guys who have been here, guys who are small, guys who are more explosive out of their break. What we’re trying to do now, especially this offseason, we worked on technique and fundamentals.
“We worked on just the nuances of the game, understanding where you’re supposed to be, leverage, understanding break points, understanding stems. Whoever comes in and puts it all together, because it’s an open competition, that’s who you’re going to see out there on Sundays.”
Wilson wasn’t at the Hula Bowl to see McPhearson, but he watched some of his game tapes from McPhearson's days at Penn State and Texas Tech. He didn’t realize it at the time, but Wilson had played with Gerrick McPhearson, an older brother to Zech, while at the University of Maryland.
“He was actually a couple of years younger when I was at the University of Maryland, so he was in our DB group,” said Wilson about Gerrick. "At the time we had a very good secondary. He didn’t play a lot then, but he was one of those young guys that went under our wing and help him exceed expectations and reach his potential.”
Gerrick was eventually drafted in the seventh round by the Giants in 2006. Before he left for the NFL, though, Wilson remembered seeing Zech as a child running around the field at Byrd Stadium.
Still, the DB coach didn’t put two and two together.
“When I first started looking at him (on film), I didn’t realize the connection,” said Wilson. “I didn’t realize that he was the younger brother of a guy that I played with. But when I watched him, they had very similar styles of play.”
And one of the hallmarks of that style, Wilson said, is resiliency.
“If he gave up a play, he came back and he battled,” he said.
His toughness also stood out, especially in McPhearson’s willingness to tackle.
“You could tell he dedicated himself to it, and he worked on it,” Wilson said. “And obviously, you can see the top-end speed and the explosiveness. The guy, he’s young, he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know right now, but he’s willing to work.
“And right now, just coming off this offseason, he’s a guy that wants to know the ins and outs, the whys, and where does he fit in the puzzle and the scheme. He’s trying to put it all together, and if he can master it fast, it gives him a great opportunity to play.”
Perhaps even be cornerback number two behind Slay.
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 and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.