January 5, 2024   6 MIN READ

‘Dialed In’

Rookie Diary With Eli Ricks


Positive vibes were felt Thursday at the NovaCare Complex, merely days before the Eagles travel up the New Jersey Turnpike to MetLife Stadium for their regular-season finale against the New York Giants, a team they last played on Christmas.

In spite of overcast weather and frigid temperature outside – and with unthinkable loss to the Arizona Cardinals on New Year’s Eve still lingering – the 11-5 Eagles boasted a noticeable bounce in their step, moving with urgency as the 18-week regular season draws to a close and a new one begins.

The atmosphere suggested a potential late-season revival.

Eli Ricks

GETTY IMAGES: Eagles rookie CB Eli Ricks recovered an onside kick vs. Cardinals and played in sub packages.

Quarterbacks, wide receivers, and offensive linemen occupied the first three fields in the portion open to the media.

Occasionally, I would peek over to the far side of the field, where defensive backs underwent individual drills.

While playoff seeding is sure to impact snap allocation Sunday, there’s the chance that an early Dallas Cowboys lead over the Washington Commanders – coupled with the expected Nor’easter – could warrant an extended look at rookie cornerback Eli Ricks.

While fellow rookie Kelee Ringo has started in place of veteran Darius Slay (knee), who is expected to soon return to the lineup, Ricks has factored into the defensive equation for new play-caller Matt Patricia, serving as a complementary mainstay.

But circumstances might dictate a sizable workload for Ricks, and one thing I’ve learned from talking to Ricks is that he’s never one to shy from a challenge.

With Giants quarterback Tyrod Taylor getting the nod over Tommy DeVito, I’m expecting the Giants to take to the air early and often, similar to their approach coming out of intermission two weeks ago.

I’m also forecasting an interception for Ricks, which would be the first of his NFL career.

As part of an Inside The Birds Rookie Diary series, I’ll be checking in with Ricks throughout the season, learning more about the first-year corner and chronicling his rookie campaign.

This week, I caught up with Ricks at his locker to discuss his onsides kick recovery against the Cardinals, looking back on his rookie season through his lenses, his approach as the stakes ratchet up, and what he hopes to carry over from his first meeting with the Giants in the regular-season finale.

Andrew: Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay said communication between you and Ben [VanSumeren] helped sniff out Arizona’s onside kick. Walk me through the play, if you could.andrew dicecco

Eli Ricks mugEli: “Yeah, me and Ben just – [Arizona] just had three guys outside the numbers. I really knew it was gonna be an onsides, so I just ran up to the ball. Really, simple as that, because I was just thinking, ‘If I run up and go get it, that’s better off.’ And if they don’t do an onsides, that’s better off … one less person blocking that is not recovering a kick.

Andrew: What would you consider your best performance of the season, and a play or two you’d like back?andrew dicecco

Eli Ricks mugEli: “I mean, best game is probably the Miami game. Maybe best coverage game, maybe the Chiefs game. Even though I didn’t get no targets, I felt like my coverage was very good that game. And then some [plays I’d like to have back in] games … I would leave them. I wouldn’t take any of the bad plays back because I feel like they’re a growing experience. It’s just something to learn from, honestly. And I honestly get to see how everybody is with a good game and a bad game. I would keep it just the way it is.”

Andrew: What’s one thing you learned about yourself this year?andrew dicecco

Eli Ricks mugEli: “Coming up, you know, I was a smart football player, but I relied a lot more on my instincts and my athleticism most of my career. This year showed me, and not even speaking about just me, but if you have a good mental – if you’re very smart and you know the plays like the back of your hand – you’re gonna make it in this league.

“And that’s one thing I’ve noticed. That’s why I think I was always ready to play early on in the season, because I was really dialed in with my mental. I would probably say honestly that. I was worried coming into the NFL, just hearing about how much schemes and stuff they run and stuff like that. But I would just say, just being very conscientious this year and just kinda being like a glove. Learning two positions, being thrown in at random times when we first started out. So, I was just say my mental.”

Andrew: When we last spoke you’d mentioned the importance of approaching the final two games as playoff games. Personally, how do you approach games of that magnitude in terms of preparation?andrew dicecco

Eli Ricks mugEli: “Well, assuming me taking this as a playoff game, I mean, if anything, it’s only just a little bit extra in one category. It could be the training room, it could be the film room, it could be on the field. But at least if one of those categories are taken care of, I feel like it was a good, productive day.”

Andrew: What moment qualifies as a memorable moment for you from your rookie season?andrew dicecco

Eli Ricks mugEli: “I would honestly say being able to see all my family during Christmas. Had a real beautiful moment with my family that just kinda made me cherish the position I’m in right now. So, I would honestly say that, to be honest.”

Andrew: What’s something you’re looking to build off of from last meeting and carry into this matchup?andrew dicecco

Eli Ricks mugEli: “I think I only got one target that last game. It was a pretty clean game, had some good tackles. It’s a different game, though, with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. Throws a lot more, throws a lot deeper. So, I think it’s honestly gonna be two different games. That’s how I’m approaching it. You know, I’m not looking at it as the same game at all, to be honest. I mean, same receivers, but quarterback-wise, they run a lot more 11 personnel with him in empty. So, I’m kind of approaching it like a different game, almost.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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