Breaking down the Eagles’ 4 rookie cornerbacks, who are newly acquired and learning on the fly
The Eagles have added rookie corners to the roster throughout the season.
There has been a wave of youth that recently arrived at NovaCare Complex, and the energy is booming inside the Eagles’ defensive back room.
Right before Tuesday’s league-wide trade deadline, the Eagles added another cornerback, Kary Vincent Jr. Acquired for a future sixth-round pick, Vincent joins a crowded position group that features fellow rookies Zech McPhearson, Mac McCain III, and Tay Gowan.
Once considered a position of need, the Eagles signed veteran Steven Nelson during training camp to help solidify their depth and experience at defensive back. The Nelson addition paired him with fellow outside cornerback Darius Slay, and also allowed Avonte Maddox to move back to the slot, where he has thrived.
Slay, Nelson, and Maddox are considered the team’s starters, but what about the rest of the depth chart with 10 cornerbacks, including four rookies.
Here’s a breakdown of each rookie cornerback:
Weight: 191 pounds
School: Texas Tech
Draft status: Selected in the fourth round (No. 123) by the Eagles.
Note: A majority of McPhearson’s snaps have occurred on special teams. He’s one of the featured gunners — a position that allows him to show off his speed, agility, and length. Thus far, McPhearson has had only two defensive snaps compared to his 157 snaps on special teams.
School: Central Florida
Draft status: Selected in the sixth round (No. 223) by the Arizona Cardinals.
Path to the Eagles: Traded along with a 2022 fifth-round pick in exchange for tight end Zach Ertz on Oct. 15.
Note: During last week’s blowout victory over the Lions, Gowan made his debut with the Eagles. He received 16 defensive snaps in the second half, plus 13 snaps on special teams. Gowan finished with one tackle.
Kary Vincent Jr.
Draft status: Selected in the seventh round (No. 237) by the Denver Broncos.
Path to the Eagles: Traded in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round pick on Nov. 2.
Note: Vincent is a speed demon. He was part of the SEC championship 4x100-meter relay team in 2018. He also participated in the 4x100 in 2019 for LSU. During his pro day, he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash.
» READ MORE: Eagles unable to move Fletcher Cox before trade deadline; acquire cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. from Broncos
Mac McCain III
School: North Carolina A&T
Draft status: UDFA signee with the Denver Broncos.
Path to Philadelphia: Eagles signed McCain off the Broncos’ practice squad in Week 1.
Note: McCain is the grandson of Franklin McCain, one of the original Greensboro Four who participated in the Woolworth sit-in in 1960.
Gowan, McCain, and Vincent share a common denominator: all three players opted out last season due to COVID-19 concerns. Their decisions didn’t impact their futures in the NFL, and now all of them are eager to prove they belong with the Eagles.
McPhearson has a slight advantage given his draft status — the Eagles selected him in the fourth round of April’s NFL draft — and knowledge of the defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s playbook. However, it’s possible any of the four rookies take advantage of snaps later in the season and jump the depth chart. More importantly, they have an opportunity at making a lasting impression heading into next year.
In recent weeks, Eagles coaches have hyped up Maddox, but there’s no guarantee the team will ink the starting slot cornerback to an extension when he hits free agency in the winter. Nelson is also an impending free agent.
“The premium position like that, corners, there are so many teams that don’t have corner depth,” coach Nick Sirianni said this week. “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.”
Slay, 30, has embraced the opportunity to mentor the Eagles’ young cornerbacks.
“I like seeing them young bucks,” Slay said. “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.”
Said Sirianni: “That’s huge to be able to have those guys that have made plays in this league and that have done it for a long time, to be able to help develop those guys.
“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. 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 Nelson.”
Jalen Reagor upgraded
After missing Wednesday’s practice, wide receiver Jalen Reagor was upgraded to a limited participant on the injury report following Thursday’s session. Reagor injured his ankle during Sunday’s victory at Detroit and needed to be carted off the field.
Fellow wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside remains sidelined with his own ankle injury.
The Eagles (3-5) have one remaining practice before they host the Chargers on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Eric Wilson signed by Texans
Wilson’s tenure with the Eagles came to an abrupt halt when he was waived by the Eagles, but the veteran linebacker was claimed off waivers by the Texans on Thursday.
Since Wilson was claimed, the Eagles are no longer responsible for the rest of his 2021 salary. Wilson signed a one-year deal with $3.25 million guaranteed during free agency, and that money would’ve been attached to the team’s payroll had the Texans not claimed Wilson.
Houston will now pick up the remainder of his base salary, which is about $517,500, according to OverTheCap.