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Is Eli Ricks the Eagles’ preseason litmus test?


Photo Credit by John McMullen/JAKIB Sports

ThrivePHILADELPHIA – Eagles fans have spoken and most want undrafted rookie cornerback Eli Ricks on the team.

Before the actual preseason games started that sentiment would have been laughed off by those attending practice every day but the former five-star recruit has showed up once the cosplay started with a pick-six against fourth-string Baltimore quarterback Anthony Brown and some sticky coverage skills against Indianapolis’ rookie signal caller Anthony Richardson and two of his top receivers, Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce.

“Our coaches told us that [the Colts] played their starters in the preseason games, and I had seen them on film, but Nick confirmed that, so I knew that coming into the game and I knew I would be in a lot earlier,” Ricks said after a 27-13 setback to Shane Steichen’s new team. “… I really wanted to see how I fared against a starting group, and I feel like I did pretty good.”

Pretty good was three tackles, a pass breakup, along with a couple of nice blocks on Devon Allen’s 73-yard kickoff return. According to Pro Football Focus, Ricks was the team’s second-best defender on the night while playing 54 defensive snaps, including 32 in coverage. The former SEC standout, who played at LSU before finishing up at Alabama, was given excellent grades when defending the pass but struggled to tackle.

The question is what do the preseason games really mean to the Eagles and their evaluation process?

Philadelphia is 1-6-2 in the preseason with a minus-98 point differential during the Nick Sirianni era. Last year they lost to Miami 48-10 in the preseason finale en route to a Super Bowl berth.

The Eagles didn’t dress 42 players against the Colts, basically all their key contributors with the exception of the safeties battling for a starting job opposite Reed Blankenship. Those deference players got all their work in during joint practices with Cleveland and Indianapolis when players like Ricks didn’t even get reps.

“Because there’s so many variables that happen in a game, we use our practices and our joint practices to really evaluate our guys,” defensive coordinator Sean Desai admitted earlier this week.

Behind the scenes, Ricks was behind Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Josh Jobe, Kelee Ringo, and fellow undrafted rookie Mekhi Garner for the entirety of training camp. He also began the process chasing Greedy Williams, who has already been released.

Against the Colts it was Ringo and Garner who started with Ricks subbing in from there while Slay, Bradberry, and Jobe sat out.

So the question is how much could Ricks have done with a strong performance against Indianapolis?

“We’re watching everything. We’ll go back and evaluate this tape and see who pops up on tape,” Sirianni assured.

Ricks laid out his game, perhaps highlighting himself as a game-day player rather than a practice one. Now, it’s about waiting to see if that’s enough.

“We have meetings on Saturday. After that just waiting around and seeing,” Ringo said when asked about Tuesday’s 4 p.m. cutdown date. “I’ve done all I could to prove why I should be on this 53, so I won’t have any regrets whatever the decision is.

“…It would mean everything to be here. I’m trying to do everything I can to show why I should be here.”

Once thought of as a potential first-round pick before disappointing a bit in his final college season Ricks’ ceiling as a player could give him an edge with GM Howie Roseman, who holds the final cards when it comes to the roaster and needs to serve two masters: a current Super Bowl contender and the realization that his two star cornerbacks — Slay and Bradberry — are post-30.

“This has been a very hard experience for me,” Ricks said of his undrafted status. “I’m usually the first guy called on ever since I’ve played football. Now it’s totally the opposite and I have to prove my spot to be here. That’s really all my focus has been, just shifting my mindset and I grew a lot as a person from that.”

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