Eagles might have found another hidden gem in CB Eli Ricks

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 14: Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman is pictured prior to the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles on October 14, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles have developed a habit of finding hidden gems where other teams dare not to look. Whether it’s snatching future starters from opposing practice squads or continuously committing more funds than most to undrafted free agents, Howie Roseman’s eye for developmental talent is rarely matched, and cornerback Eli Ricks looks to be the next name to be turning heads while donning a midnight green jersey.

Who is Eli Ricks?

Ricks was a name a lot of fans wanted in Philadelphia upon hearing he fell through the cracks of the 2023 NFL draft. The former LSU corner battled injury setbacks before transferring to Alabama where he put together a campaign worthy of 4th-5th round considerations. Unfortunately, no team took the plunge, although the Eagles were quick to snap up the former 5-star recruit post-draft.

At 6’2, 188 lbs, he has the prototypical size needed to thrive at the NFL level and comes with great hip fluidity and aggression. There looked to be a lot of upside for a CB who batted away five passes in 2022, but making the roster was never going to be an easy task.

Eagles nfl
Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, center, stands with defensive end Brandon Graham (55) offensive tackle Lane Johnson (65), defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and center Jason Kelce (62) after the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 31-7. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A fine preseason for the Eagles UDFA

It didn’t take Ricks long to flex his muscles, picking off a pass and taking it to the house in his 2023 preseason debut. That was enough to put him on the map and assert his presence in a crowded secondary.

He followed that up with a fine training camp and impressive preseason. Ricks impressed so much that the Eagles opted to keep him around knowing that a practice squad placement could expose him to other teams looking to snatch his services.

Eli Ricks makes an impact in the regular season

It’s a good job the Eagles kept Eli Ricks around. The team lost Avonte Maddox to a season-ending injury early on and then the injury bug really sunk its teeth into the secondary. Darius Slay and James Bradberry would both appear on the injury report over the coming weeks, and even Bradley Roby, signed to replace Maddox, suffered the same fate.

Over the last few weeks, Ricks has been given several opportunities to shine and has made the most of them. The rookie has played 39 passing snaps for the Eagles, defending some of the NFL’s premier wideouts in the process – none more than Tyreek Hill.

Defensive coordinator Sean Desai creatively decided to mix things up against Miami, with Ricks playing 14 snaps in the marquee matchup. He didn’t allow a single reception on 3 balls thrown in his direction, breaking up one in a key spot.

In total, Ricks has only allowed two receptions for seven yards on as many targets through 39 passing snaps. That counts for a lot given that the Eagles have played Cooper Kupp, Garrett Wilson, Tyreek Hill, and Terry McLaurin in that span.

What next for Eli Ricks?

It’s early days for Eli Ricks, but he’s impressed at every twist and turn. There’s a reason he was once a five-star recruit and he’s now in a system that lends itself very kindly to his strengths. Surrounded by strong leaders like Darius Slay and James Bradberry who can aid his development, Ricks figures to be one of the most exciting young cornerbacks the Eagles have.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 09: Philadelphia Eagles Cornerback Cre’von LeBlanc (34) watches the game from the sideline during the game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on December 09, 2019 a Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Nicole Fridling/Icon Sportswire)

Following in the footsteps of the likes of Cre’Von LeBlanc and Jalen Mills as an underdog who found his footing in the City of Brotherly Love, Eli Ricks has been as good as anyone could ask a ‘pinch-hitter’ to be.

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire