The Philadelphia Eagles made quite the splash on Sunday afternoon. Steven Nelson, considered one of the top available free agents on the market, has signed a one-year deal with the Birds worth more than 4-million dollars.
Where the Eagles were
The Eagles defense allowed a completion percentage of 69%. Avonte Maddox was clearly outmatched on the perimeter last season. Yes he fought injuries all season long, but he simply did not have the frame to compete against the taller and more physical wideouts. Avonte’s 0 interceptions and 3 total passes defended last year was an embarrassment. He’s missed 13 games the last 3 seasons. Even more, his sample size of CB2 play in 2019 only proved further that Avonte should be utilized in the slot and nickel formations moving forward.
Meanwhile Zech McPhearson, the 123rd pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has the measurements to be ideal on the outside (40 1/2″ vertical, ran under the 7.0 threshold in the three-cone drill, lightning quick feet). However, considering the Eagles track record with developing young talent (Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas), the decision to bring in a veteran with experience was beyond clear.
Where they are now
The Steven Nelson signing is significant and removes a glaring weakness on the Eagles defense. Steven Nelson allowed 43 receptions on 76 targets last season (907 snaps. For comparison purposes, Darius Slay allowed 58 catches on 75 targets (884). Avonte Maddox allowed 29 receptions on 47 targets in 2020. Per PFF, Nelson was the 11th best CB in 2019 and 27th in 2020. For a defense that has been in among the worst in the league at generation turnovers, Nelson has brought in 7 interceptions over the past 3 seasons. All Eagles cornerbacks have had 13 in that span. When Steven Nelson was targeted the last three years, his opponent passer rating is 55.9.
Projected Depth Chart
S: Anthony Harris
S: Rodney McLeod
CB: Darius Slay
CB: Steven Nelson
Nickel: Avonte Maddox
Steven Nelson slotted in the CB2 spot drastically changes the look of the Eagles secondary. Per PFF, the Eagles produced the fourth-to-last coverage grade among all cornerback units. It’s no secret that Darius Slay must play better. His PFF grade dropped from 90.0 over a five-year stint in Detroit to just 59.5 across the past two years. Assuming everyone stays healthy (that’s a huge IF considering recent years), the Eagles chances at a division title have without a doubt increased. The addition of defensive playmakers Anthony Harris and Steven Nelson are a breath of fresh air for a defense that was 4th worst in generating interceptions.