Corey Nelson has primarily been a backup and a special teams player during his first four seasons in the NFL. He now wants desperately to be a starter.
It’s telling he thinks he can do that in Philadelphia.
At the 25-year-old’s introductory press conference on Thursday afternoon, Nelson said the Eagles told him he’ll be competing at the weakside linebacker position, which is currently occupied by Mychal Kendricks and his $7.6 million cap hit.
Go ahead and cue the Kendricks trade rumors for yet another offseason.
“I kind of wanted to go out on a limb and show people I can be a starter in this league,” Nelson said. “The Eagles gave me the opportunity to be able to compete, to work hard to earn that right.”
If Nelson is going to compete to be the Eagles’ starting WILL linebacker, he’s not going to be competing with Kendricks because if Kendricks is still on the roster, he’s going to be starting. Now, of course teams will promise guys more opportunity in free agency, so maybe we have to take the Eagles’ talking up competition to Nelson with a grain of salt. But if they were serious about that, it might mean the end of Kendricks’ long and strange run in Philadelphia.
But what about Nelson?
He played just 44 defensive snaps last season but grew into an important part of the Broncos’ special teams groups. Coming to Philadelphia is a part of his plan to shed the label of being a “special teamer.”
“It definitely was important to me,” Nelson said. “A lot of guys get labeled as things, just like practice squad guys. They kind of get labeled as practice squad guys. You kind of don’t want to be labeled as that. You want to be able to showcase your talent and show people that you’re better than what they say you are if the opportunity presents itself and if you’re able to handle that.”
Nelson is recovering from a torn biceps that limited him to just five games in 2017. On Thursday, he said he’s 90 percent healthy and expects to be 100 percent by mid-April for the start of offseason workouts. He’s at 235 pounds now and thinks that would be adequate to play linebacker for the Eagles.
When Nelson did get his rare chance to play defense for the Broncos, he said he did a little bit of everything. He played on all three downs and was asked to cover running backs, tight ends and even the occasional wide receiver. In Philly, he’ll play in a much different scheme than the one Vance Joseph runs in Denver.
When asked what he knows about Jim Schwartz, Nelson said he knows he “has a kick-ass defense.”
“I saw them on TV a lot,” he said. “I like their linebackers. Jordan Hicks, that’s my guy. Been knowing him since high school. I love watching Nigel Bradham go out there and ball out. I watched them quite a bit and I knew these guys are the real deal.”
Nelson failed to mention Kendricks. Maybe it was an oversight; maybe it wasn’t. Either way, it seemed fitting, especially if he ends up taking his job.