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The Philadelphia Eagles solved their CB2 problem in a huge way, signing Steven Nelson to a one-year contract Sunday. Nelson signs with the team just days before training camp is set to begin at the NovaCare Complex, becoming the starting cornerback opposite Darius Slay the team desperately needed.
Prior to the Nelson signing, the Eagles were going into camp with Avonte Maddox and rookie fourth-round pick Zech McPhearson competing for the starting outside cornerback job. With Nelson in the fold, Maddox is the favorite to emerge as the slot cornerback (a better fit for him) while McPhearson provides valuable depth in the slot behind Maddox or as a third outside cornerback. Maddox could also provide depth on the outside if the Eagles choose to go McPhearson as their slot cornerback.
The Eagles head into training camp with a projected starting secondary of Slay and Nelson at cornerback with Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod at safety. McLeod tore his ACL last December, but expects to be ready for the start of the 2021 season. This is part of a revamped secondary under new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, tasked with revamping a defense that finished with just eight interceptions in 2020, the fourth-fewest total in the NFL.
Nelson is just what the doctor ordered at cornerback. He finished his 2020 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers with 48 tackles, nine passes defensed and two interceptions in 15 games started at right cornerback. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 63.8 passer rating targeting Nelson in 564 coverage snaps.
Nelson has played over 500 coverage snaps in each of the past three seasons with the Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs, allowing just a 56.3 passer rating and nine touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks have completed just 49.6% of their passes targeting Nelson.
The Eagles have their starting cornerback opposite Slay in place, a huge question answered as camp opens Wednesday.