Steven Nelson was largely the forgotten man in defense of the Philadelphia Eagles. The starting cornerback towards Darius Slay rarely prefers the top matchup, preferring to work in the shade and do the dirty work.
Nelson only has an interception – a huge win that sealed a 21:18 win over the Panthers in Week 5 – with seven passes and 50 tackles in total. According to Pro Football Focus, the 28-year-old ranks 72nd among qualifying cornerbacks. His 59.6 grade in pass coverage is well below Slay (83.9) and teammate Avonte Maddox (76.2).
Throw the numbers out the window, says Slay. He sees high school as a dynamic player whose contributions have been invaluable to the Eagles.
“A lot – older guy, leader, smart guy,” Slay said of what Nelson meant to the Eagles. “We have certainly helped each other to get better this year. And you know, he was a great addition to us. He’s done a lot for this team, man. “
That’s kudos from one of the best corners of football. And Slay wasn’t done playing the role of the hype man (see: Asante Samuel) for a teammate he believes has played himself into a bankrupt new contract.
“It’s sad to have to say that, but when the time comes, I hope he deserves what he deserves because he is making a lot of money right now,” said Slay. “Because he played his best game out there, tackles well, covers well, was a smart guy, so he’s definitely a great addition to us.”
The latest Eagles news delivered to your inbox! Join in Heavy on Eagles newsletter here!
Join Heavy on Eagles!
The main reason Nelson fell into the Eagles’ lap was because no other team wanted to give him the raise he thought was deserved. The Pittsburgh Steelers cut him off after Nelson asked for a deal out of town. He begged the Steelers not to “Hold him hostage” When no suitors called, they decided to grant him his request and parted ways. Pittsburgh saved $8.25 million by releasing him.
“It was about the timing, timing of my release, and my release,” Nelson said of the Steelers who cut him in July. “It just doesn’t work the way you want it to at certain times, but I have a feeling people recognized me as a player and it was just the timing.”
The Eagles broke in and signed Nelson on a one-year contract worth up to $ 4 million (including incentives). The wink agreement was a chance for him to show everyone else what they were missing out on. Nelson always believed he was a top corner in the NFL and expected to be paid like one. Now it will likely go on the open market where more lucrative offers might be waiting.
Slay already had a reputation for being a real shutdown cornerback. Four Pro Bowls typically give you street cred. But not everyone knew how great they were to be a teammate. Slay was like another coach in the defensive backs room and looked after young cornerbacks and receivers alike after training.
Defensive coordinator of the Eagles Jonathan Gannon named him a “team-first type” and was amazed at his “football character”.
“He’s ready to play whatever style he should play to be successful this week,” said Gannon. “It was an incredible year with him, close to him, like all of our boys. But it was really a pleasure to be with him. Only from the point of view of the football character that one of your premium players is the team first. “