October 13, 2023   7 MIN READ

All In The Name

Rookie Diary With Eli Ricks


As an upstart Los Angeles Rams offense proceeded to march down the field Sunday on its opening possession, one would be hard-pressed to ignore the hasty personnel shuffling – specifically at nickel corner – as the Eagles attempted to remedy an impending Cooper Kupp onslaught.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, following an incompletion on his first attempt, completed his next three passes to jumpstart the drive, preying on a vulnerable Philadelphia secondary with little resistance, with Kupp and fellow wideout Puka Nacua doing damage.

Facing a 3rd-and-8 on the Rams’ second third down of the possession, with just more than six minutes remaining in the opening frame, Stafford zeroed in on Kupp, who had drawn an unfamiliar No. 39 in coverage.

An 8-yard completion gave the Rams a fresh set of downs at the Eagles’ 31, but the decision to deploy the player coverage – Eli Ricks – at that juncture was a notable development on a defense continuing to evolve.

Eli Ricks

GETTY IMAGES: Eagles rookie free-agent CB Eli Ricks saw his first NFL action against the Rams.

You may recall from last week’s diary that Ricks’ goal was to become more proficient at learning the nickel cornerback position – presumably in practice – but the heralded undrafted rookie saw his development expedited, logging 13 defensive snaps in addition to another 12 on special teams in the Eagles’ 23-14 win at SoFi Stadium.

As the Eagles prepare for a road showdown against the floundering New York Jets on Sunday, they’ll likely keep Ricks in the defensive equation, with the team short-handed from injuries in the secondary.

After some days to reflect, I spoke to Ricks at his locker Thursday. He was stationed between defensive tackle Kentavius Street and cornerback Josh Jobe.

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.

On Thursday, we took a look back at his formal defensive debut against the Rams as well as focus on the task at hand, as Ricks continues to factor into the back end rotation.

Andrew: As a Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., native, was Sunday’s game a homecoming for you?

Eli Ricks mug


Eli: “I grew up in L.A. and then I moved to Rancho. So, it was just good going back home in general. I had about 25 family members there, so it was good seeing all of them. I got some defensive snaps back home, too. So, it was good all around.”


Andrew: How did you personally handle the time change?

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Eli: “I’m from the West Coast, so it wasn’t that bad. I might’ve woke up a little earlier, if anything. But it wasn’t too bad.”


Andrew: What did you do to pass the time on the plane?

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Eli: “I watched probably about half a movie then went to sleep for the rest of the plane ride.”


Q: We discussed last week your short-term goal to continue learning slot, a position you’d only been introduced to within the past couple weeks. On the first series against the Rams you’re lined up inside against Cooper Kupp! At what point did you find out you’d  be taking snaps there?

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Eli: “I mean, like, they told me all week, ‘Be ready in case you go in on third down.’ But I didn’t really, really know until … I would probably say the morning of the game is when they told me. But I’m always ready for it, so it was definitely a good challenge for me. To be matched up against one of the best receivers in the game was a good debut.”

Andrew: It appeared the strategy was for Mario Goodrich to handle early down work where the running game is more prominent while you tapped in on obvious passing situations.

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Eli: “That’s definitely accurate. Really just on third down, third-and-long situations, something like that when they know they’re gonna have to throw the ball. That’s when I went in.”

Andrew: What’s your takeaway from seeing your first extensive defensive workload (13 snaps)?

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Eli: “I would probably say maybe that I need more reps at nickel, in general. I’ve gotten a lot of reps on the practice side of it, but just to get more comfortable at the position. I do a lot of corner at practice, so, getting a lot of reps at nickel definitely would help. But it was my first game, so I really felt good, honestly.”

Andrew: Playing nickel obviously presents its own set of challenges. As a longer corner, what sort of adjustments have you had to implement kicking inside?

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Eli: “If anything, I would say it kind of helps. Slot receivers are kind of smaller receivers, so I can get my hands on them more. It’s rare you find a slot receiver who likes physicality, so if anything, I would say it helps, honestly. I think the one thing I could have done in the game was press a little more – that’s what I started doing in the second half when I got in – because Cooper Kupp would just kind of eat up his space and then make a move. But really, I wanna say it’s not too much of a difference for me, size-wise.”

Andrew: How instrumental has JB (James Bradberry) been throughout the acclimation process?

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Eli: “I seen him, when he moved there, all the questions he was asking and stuff like that. So, when I moved there, whenever I had a question, I just went to him and asked him because he literally did kind of the same thing I’m doing right now. You know, went to nickel when we needed help. So, just asking him for whatever I needed.”

Andrew: Slay has missed the past two days of practice. While cross-training, how have you balanced playing both positions in practice?

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Eli: “My main focus this week has been corner. I’ve been moved back to corner. Me and Josh [Jobe] were rotating. So, just really back to what I’ve been doing since I started here in training camp. It’s not like I had to learn anything new because I’ve already been up to speed at corner. So, just really moving back right back to there, where I’m comfortable at.”

Andrew: Let’s hear the origins of the nickname “Pick-6-Ricks.”

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Eli: “That’s like way back, like my freshman year of high school. I was like 15 – I’m 22 now – so it’s been around for a minute. I just gotta keep getting more so it stays around.”


Andrew: Do you have a celebration prepared?

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Eli: “[Smiling] I have it down, so we just gotta get it now. But it’s ready, though.”


Andrew: Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay has mentioned you a few times. What’s clicked there?

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Eli: “I never really did special teams at all in college. So, taking on blocks, doing blocks for people – stuff like that – I wasn’t really too good at. So, just with time and the coaches helping me out all the time – working after practice with Coach Clay – all that stuff added up to where I am right now. So, I feel like I’m in a good spot.”

Andrew: What’s one goal you’re aiming to achieve this week?

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Eli: “I would probably say just going back to my regular self at corner, and be ready for when I go in. At corner, just do what I regularly do. I feel like I started at preseason form at cornerback, if not more, so I definitely wanna apply that. It’s a regular game for me. It’ll be my first game at corner, but I really just wanna take it like any other game. I’m more than prepared – gotta a lot of practice reps, a lot of film reps, staying extra. So, really, just going out there and playing my game. That’s really my main focus this week.”

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

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