Philadelphia Eagles: One bad play doesn’t define Zech McPhearson

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

When a defensive back gets their name called in a game, it’s either for a really good reason or a really bad one.

Sure, occasionally your stumble upon a game where a former defensive back like Ronde Barber, DeAngelo Hall, or Philadelphia Eagles draftee Kurt Coleman at the color analyst role will spotlight how well a cornerback is holding up in coverage or how well a safety is using their angles to be in the best position to make a play but for the most part, analysis of defensive backs is limited to touchdowns, interceptions, pass breakups, and penalties with little variation in between.

Unfortunately for Zech McPhearson, his first introduction on the national stage fell into the latter category.

But hey; it’s cool. While that one play wasn’t ideal, I doubt that one “welcome to the NFL” moment will define an otherwise exemplary summer by the Philadelphia Eagles’ highly-touted fourth-round pick.

Zech McPhearson actually played pretty well for the Philadelphia Eagles versus Pittsburgh.

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After watching Mason Rudolph fail to get much going for the first quarter plus of the game, the Pittsburgh Steelers inserted former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins into their offense in the hopes of generating some life against a Philadelphia Eagles’ defense that had exclusively generated punts up to that point.

*spoiler alert* it worked.

After working through some initial false starts with his receivers, Haskins started driving the ball with ease and began to systematically pick apart Jonathan Gannon’s second-string back seven with ease.

And the coup de resistance came with roughly 1:56 left in the second quarter, where Haskins targeted McPhearson at the six-yard line and picked up an in-the-endzone PI on a poor throw to Rico Bussey.

Could one argue with the call? Probably not. As tough as it is to admit, McPhearson did get his hands on Bussey outside of five yards and that could have, in theory, impeded his ability to catch the ball, but honestly, it’s not a particularly big deal either way.

When the Eagles beelined it to the endzone for the half, they were up 16-7 and the game was still very winnable at 21-16 when McPhearson finally left the game at the top of the fourth.

Now granted, was McPhearson perfect outside of that PI? No. He was brutally manhandled by Cody White on a screen pass for an eight-yard pickup and was again pushed around by his former Penn State teammate Pat Freiermuth, but McPhearson kept his feet active, his body controlled, and his eyes on the ball whether dropped into coverage or in run support. Do you remember players like Ronald Darby, who seemingly never wrapped up at the end of a play? Well, that certainly wasn’t McPhearson, as he embraced contact even on plays where he wasn’t the primary defender.

By my estimation, McPhearson was responsible for two catches in the contest for eight yards, a pass interference penalty, and four solo tackles. In the grand scheme of an NFL preseason game, things can turn out a whole lot worse – see Nick Mullens – and outside of that one bad play, McPhearson was far from the team’s biggest issue, especially since the Eagles’ defense was running an incredibly vanilla gameplan ill-concerned with matching up for down and distance.

Considering just how good McPhearson has looked in camp, I’d still feel very comfortable with the player who didn’t initially pick the number 27 – read about that here – being the Birds’ first outside cornerback off the bench, even if he might not be quite ready for Game 1 of the regular season if he was thrust into action.

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The beauty of the preseason is that it’s just that; the preseason. While fans, pundits, and bloggers – hi – the world over will overly analyze a snap ad nauseam, the difference between a 78-yard touchdown and a three-yard game can be as simple as a single block in space, and the difference between a bad showing and an elite outing can be where a cornerback places his hands six yards off the line. Considering his body of work, I’d say the Philadelphia Eagles have something pretty darn good in Zech McPhearson, who could help the team for years to come. And hey, with two more preseason games left to play, McPhearson could always turn in a fantastic interception and recapture the hearts of fans before the real bullets start to fly on September 12th.