Eagles players with most to gain at OTAs — LB Corey Nelson


The Eagles don’t hit the practice field as a team for another five weeks, yet each year coaches point to players who distinguish themselves at OTAs during the months of April and May.

The Eagles lured Corey Nelson to Philadelphia with the promise he could compete for a starting job at weakside linebacker.

A competition that opened on Monday.

We tend to think of position battles as beginning in training camp, when the pads go back on and teams ratchet up the intensity. For a free agent showing up at a new facility, working with all new coaches and trainers, winning a job away from an established starter begins in phase one of OTAs.

The pressure is on Nelson right away to impress at these workouts, especially considering how much ground the fifth-year veteran has to make up to unseat Mychal Kendricks – for the time being at least.

Kendricks is coming off arguably his strongest season since 2014, finishing with 93 tackles, 2.0 sacks and seven pass breakups in 18 games, including playoffs. He’s started 78 games for the Eagles.

Nelson made five career starts in four seasons with the Broncos, all in 2016.

It’s possible the Nelson signing will finally clear the way for the Eagles to trade Kendricks, a move that’s been rumored for years. The club could certainly use the minimum $4.4 million in savings his departure would create. Kendricks isn’t thrilled about the prospect of seeing his playing time reduced with the return of Jordan Hicks from a torn Achilles, either.

Getting Nelson in the building so the Eagles can see exactly what he has to offer could influence the decision. With the NFL draft approaching in less than two weeks, there’s a lot of wheeling and dealing ahead, but also precious little time for a new player to make an impression.

Even if Kendricks were dealt, Nelson has plenty to prove. The Eagles also signed veteran linebacker Paul Worrilow, who can line up outside, while 2017 fifth-round pick Nathan Gerry is still in the picture.

With Nelson on a one-year deal, another draft pick could be incoming as well.

A seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2014, Nelson played primarily on special teams in Denver. The Eagles aren’t just handing the job over to such an inexperienced player, no matter what happens with Kendricks.

Nelson is also returning from a torn bicep, so something as simple as demonstrating he’s 100 percent recovered from injury is important here.

The Eagles obviously saw something they liked, locking Nelson down the first day of free agency. The 25-year-old is listed at 6-foot-1, 226 pounds with 4.6 speed, and has an opportunity to really shine in this portion of the offseason program with that combination of size and athleticism.

But it could also wind up aiding his cause significantly if he’s able to stand out.

Contact Us