Rookie Diary With Eli Ricks
The San Francisco 49ers had already secured more than a two-touchdown lead early into the game’s final frame against the Eagles last Sunday, but on the heels of some heavy lifting from running back Christian McCaffrey, the visitors smelled blood.
Fielding the snap from shotgun, Niners quarterback Brock Purdy appeared to immediately eye his inside receiver, fourth-year pro Jauan Jennings, who was running an out route against Eagles cornerback Eli Ricks.
Jennings caught the timed pass in stride, eluding a tackle attempt from Ricks en route to an 18-yard touchdown, his first of the season.
The tackle whiff magnified what had been a tough day for the rookie Ricks, who in five snaps was targeted three times, allowing three completions for 44 yards and the touchdown.
While Ricks played a minor role in Sunday’s 42-19 rout – logging his lowest snap total since Week 2 as the intricate Niners offense provided unique looks – he again exhibited the typical growing pains that transpire when playing out of position and learning on the fly.
There’s something to be gleaned from misfortune, however, and the stoic Ricks on this Sunday will have a chance at redemption. He figures to see a good bit of Cowboys wideout CeeDee Lamb, who slashed the Eagles in Week 9 with 11 receptions for 191 yards on 16 targets.
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.
As the minutes ticked down on Friday’s locker room session, I briefly caught up with Ricks, continuing our season-long weekly chats.
We touched on the 49ers game from Ricks’ perspective, as well as his primary takeaway from the initial meeting with Dallas.
Andrew: You played only five snaps, fewest since Week 2. What sort of perspective did the game give you?
Eli: “Yeah. I come in on third down and towards the second half, we rarely got into third-down situations. And they ran a lot of 21 personnel, making us be in base with less DBs. They ran a lot of formations that really didn’t need nickel. And they threw a lot of 21 personnel, and with [RB] Christian McCaffrey, you always got an extra option out of the backfield. So, that’s kind of why I played less that game.”
Andrew: From your vantage point, what happened on the [49ers WR] Jauan Jennings touchdown?
Eli: “Cover Zero. Main thought, in Cover Zero, you don’t have any help, so you can’t get beat inside. Then he broke out at the sticks, [I] really was trying to go strip the ball. I should have just pushed him out of bounds, but I was trying to strip the ball, because we were already down, so I was trying to get a turnover.”
Andrew: Did you sense the 49ers were strategically targeting you when you went in?
Eli: “I mean, I was only in three plays. I got targeted on two of them, but I just don’t even think I was in enough plays to even say that. But it could have been that, maybe. I don’t know.”
Andrew: What did you learn from the previous matchup against Dallas that you hope to apply this time?
Eli: “We have to start fast. One thing I noticed from the last Dallas game, obviously, they’re gonna give 88 [Lamb] the ball. Really, all their concepts with the receivers besides 88 are all routes to help each other or pick routes or rub routes — something like that — and really 88 is the only receiver that’s getting open on his own. So, that’s just one thing I gotta know. And obviously, [Dak Prescott’s] favorite third-down target is 88.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.