Philadelphia Eagles: Steven Nelson’s addition just saved the secondary

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

And just like that, the secondary is saved.

For months now, fans of the Philadelphia Eagles have been petitioning both the organization and a certain former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback to get together for the 2021 NFL season through a grassroots campaign of good ole fashion Twitter harassment.

Go back to seemingly any post from either entity since the start of free agency, and you’ll surely find at least a few comments asking when a contract will be announced or explaining how another season sans a true number two cornerback next to Darius Slay would be a disaster.

Heck, even the actual Darius Slay has gotten in on the fun, serving as a one-man recruiting tool like an overly zealous DI assistant coach with something to prove.

Well, guess what? After months of hoping, harassing, and hardcore speculation, the deal is officially done: Steven Nelson is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and suddenly, the season is saved… right?

Steven Nelson legitimizes the Philadelphia Eagles’ secondary.

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In 2021, an NFL defense is not a circuit.

Parts get changed out frequently, both rotationally and situationally, and outside of very specific situations, no one position will tank the defense down in and down out. Very few teams can boast 11 above-average players across their defensive starting lineup, and fewer still can roll 14-16 deep when you factor in subpackages.

While on any given snap, some player may not execute their specific role perfectly, which usually corresponds with a positive offensive play, for the most part, teams can hide a deficiency in their front or back seven without too much trouble.

A bad outside cornerback may be the exception to that rule.

Now sure, having a non-existent pass rush could make a defensive back’s life harder, as no one can lock down an NFL wide receiver for 15-seconds consistently, but when a cornerback constantly gets beaten at the line or has poor instincts in the zone, even the most dominant rush can’t make up for it.

Seriously, even the fastest edge rushers need a few seconds to get to the quarterback on an open rush; it’s just physics. Had the Eagles not added a professional, starting-caliber veteran cornerback, maybe they would have been able to squeeze a season’s worth of adequate starts out of one of their young developmental players.

Who knows, maybe Avonte Maddox would have put it together in his second season on the outside and become the starter Howie Roseman envisioned last summer. I mean, probably not, it’s more likely the team would have struggled like they did in 2020 and forced another set of moves next spring. But hey, anything is possible.

Now, that problem is moot. With Steven Nelson in the fray, the Eagles have two competent starters on the outside and will be able to let their band of sub-six-foot corners duke it out for a starting spot in the slot. Regardless of who wins said spot, that should produce at least an average defensive secondary when you factor in incumbent starter Rodney McLeod and ex-Minnesota Vikings safety Anthony Harris, which in turn should make Jalen Hurts‘ life a little easier this fall.

But how? Well, allow me to elaborate.

You see, in the NFL, a team wins by scoring more points than they give up (duh). While Hurts could prove to be a fantastic starting quarterback, the Eagles’ offensive ceiling under first-year head coach Nick Sirianni is far from defined and it may take a few weeks or even months for the team’s young core to get on the same page. If the Eagles start to fall behind in games with frequency, it could force Sirianni to play hero ball with his starting QB and thus make it harder to evaluate Hurts’ play fairly.

As antithetical as it may initially sound, Nelson’s addition may be just what the doctor needed to get a fair evaluation out of Hurts and thus see what the Birds have heading into 2022.

Next. Good luck in Miami, Cre’von LeBlanc. dark

So in a way, for the low, low price of $4.1 million with incentives, the Philadelphia Eagles just landed a cornerback who allowed a sub-60 completion percentage over the past three seasons who could serve as a positive mentor for the team’s young CB corps and a drive stopper who gets Jalen Hurts back on the field just a little bit faster with a few fewer points on the board. Sometimes a deal just makes sense, and thankfully, all of our collective well-meaning nudgings led to the right conclusion. Don’t you just love when that happens?