October 20, 2023   7 MIN READ

Growing Pains

Rookie Diary With Eli Ricks


Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium, against the reeling New York Jets, was supposed to be the game in which Eli Ricks initiated his long-awaited breakthrough.

The 22-year-old cornerback had returned to his natural position on the boundary after toiling as a nickelback for the better part of three weeks. He had been rotating with second-year cornerback Josh Jobe on the outside in practice leading up to the game, as Darius Slay remained sideline with a knee injury.

It appeared as though Ricks was primed to carve out a more substantial role for coordinator Sean Desai’s defense.

It didn’t take long for Ricks to see action – he replaced Jobe opposite James Bradberry on the Eagles’ second defensive series – and appeared to play faster and more instinctually in his normal position.

But with 5:32 remaining until the break, Jets quarterback Zach Wilson misfired to receiver Garrett Wilson on Ricks’ 13th snap. The rookie corner collided with linebacker Zach Cunningham on the play, landing awkwardly on his right leg and forcing an early exit.

Ricks never returned, and the Eagles suffered a 20-14 loss for their first defeat of the season.

Eli Ricks

GETTY IMAGES: Rookie CB Eli Ricks suffered a knee injury vs. the Jets that sidelined him the rest of the game.

While his prognosis was positive – a Grade 1 hyperextension – the setback deprived the undrafted rookie to play a more prominent role.

Fortunately for Ricks, he was listed as full go for Wednesday’s walkthrough and could have another opportunity Sunday night to elbow his way into a more substantial workload.

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, I stopped by Ricks’ locker stall to chat for our third installment. We revisited his injury scare at MetLife, while also taking a look ahead at his toughest task to date.

Andrew: After rotating in practice last week, you took over outside for the second defensive series and logged 13 snaps before the injury. Walk me through that play if you could.

Eli Ricks mugEli: “Basically, the receiver ran an under route, the running back went to the flat, and we were in a man-coverage type thing. Me and Zach [Cunningham] bumped into each other – I got popped in the air – and then I just landed really awkwardly on my right leg, which caused the hyperextension. That’s really about it; that’s all that happened. But I’m fine now, really. All it is, really, is some soreness. I was more freaked out in the moment than I am now, I would say.”

Andrew: You came out after halftime, rode the stationary bike and went through some position drills. What ultimately factored into the decision to shut it down?

Eli Ricks mugEli: “So, when I was warming up, I could bend it fine after it happened, it was more so the pressing off on one leg or putting all my weight on it. And what went into the decision is, when I was warming up and doing my breaks and stuff, I was only going about 75-80 percent and I was still feeling it at the time a lot. So, me knowing if I would have went 100 percent, I definitely wouldn’t have been my best. So, that’s what went into it.

Andrew: How did it feel getting back to playing your natural position?

Eli Ricks mugEli: “It felt great. I think I’m a cornerback, always – I can play other positions – but I think that’s my best position. It felt good, it felt natural to be out there. Wasn’t thinking a lot.”

Andrew: What has the recovery process consisted of this week?

Eli Ricks mugEli: Really just been in treatment every day since then. Been in the pool on and off, but really just stuff like that and rest. Those are the main three things.”

Andrew: I saw you attended Game 2 of the NLCS. Describe the atmosphere.

Eli Ricks mugEli: “It was a great game, honestly. I mean, that was my second game, but they put on a show. I took my girl there with me, too; it was her first game. So, they put on a show, definitely.”

Andrew: What was the perspective like for you being among the impassioned Philly crowd as opposed to on the field competing?

Eli Ricks mugEli: “Yeah, that’s what I told my girl. The main thing I wanted to do was be a fan. I wanted to experience the view of the game from a fan’s point of view. And I haven’t done that in some years, so I wanted to go and see that.”

Andrew: You’re close with [Texans cornerback] Derek Stingley. Have you guys talked this season?

Eli Ricks mugEli:”Yeah. We talked about … I’d probably say a week ago, maybe. Him or me will call each other probably every other week or two weeks just to catch up with each other. He’s shaking back as well from an injury. And I just gave him an update to let him know – he checked up on me – so I let him know I was all safe.”

Andrew: What do you consider to be his most valuable piece of advice as you navigate your rookie season and snap uptick?

Eli Ricks mugEli: “He always told me, ‘You know who you are, you know what you are. Just be yourself, no matter what. And I just kind of spin my own thing after that, and that is: As long as I know the plays and know the system, everything else is me.’ I got here because I’ve got a God-given talent. So, just let it display, honestly.

Andrew: The Eagles on Wednesday signed Julio Jones. Going against him in practice, what about his game do you feel will help you most in your development?

Eli Ricks mugEli: “Hall of Fame receiver … you know, anything can help, honestly. He’s played in a lot more games than half of my life – just in the NFL. So, I could always get some advice from him; seeing a Hall of Fame-level-receiver route tree and what that looks like. Getting to see that every day will definitely help me out a lot.”

Andrew: I’m not sure if they ever officially logged your measurements at the NFL Scouting Combine. Given your arm length, what’s your wingspan?

Eli Ricks mugEli: “So, they did do it, but it was surprisingly not as long … I don’t know what it is, but I remember at the Combine, when they did my arms, they were like, ‘Damn, I thought your arms were longer.’ I think I’ve got long forearms, that’s what it is. And I think that’s what makes people think that. I don’t remember it, honestly.”

Andrew: On the field, who would you say is the chirpiest of the defensive backs?

Eli Ricks mugEli: “[Long pause] Probably Rell. I’d probably say Terrell [Edmunds].”

Andrew: Speed aside, what stands out to you about the Dolphins receiving corps?

Eli Ricks mugEli: “I would probably say they run a lot of rub routes and pick routes, and stuff like that. And all their routes are really timing to get others open, or some will be dummy routes just to get 10 [Tyreek Hill] or 17 [Jaylen Waddle] open. So, they just do a really good job of running their routes. Good route tree. I really would say it’s a good route tree, honestly, compared to the good routes ran. So, that’s what I would say they have.”

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

Eli Ricks mugEli: “Well, I moved back in at nickel this week. I feel I’ve got the game plan this week. I feel a lot more prepared coming into this game, compared to the Rams game when I went in at nickel. I feel like I’ll be able to do a lot more than just go in and be a man coverage corner this week. So, just really trying to give the coaches confidence, earn their trust and show that I’m ready to help.”

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

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