Only one unbeaten team remains in the NFL entering Week 10: the Philadelphia Eagles, who are on pace to just a year after making their postseason debut under new coach Nick Sirianni. While big names like Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown have headlined the Birds' hot start, Zech McPhearson has been another constant for the NFC East frontrunners. A 2021 fourth-round pick out of Texas Tech, the 24-year-old cornerback has emerged as the Eagles' top special teams player, ranking fifth in the NFL in special teams tackles and at one point recovering an onside kick to preserve their 8-0 record.
Ahead of Monday night's Week 10 matchup with the Commanders, McPhearson joined CBS Sports over the phone to discuss his growth as a player, Darius Slay's mentorship, Hurts' strides as a "heartbeat" of the team, and the "groove" that's driving the Eagles toward an inevitable playoff run:
You come from, with two parents and seven siblings who have collegiate or professional sports ties. How has that background aided your journey to this point?
McPhearson: Having such an athletic family, it kinda gave me leverage among everyone else in my class. I had a lot of people to learn from that went ahead of me. And I've taken something from them, each and every individual in my family, whether it's something from baseball, basketball, football. It was the best position to be in, me being the youngest.
Speaking of siblings, have any of your brothers tried passing off as you since you made it to the NFL?
McPhearson: (Laughs) Nah, nah, they haven't. I'm pretty sure a lot of us get mistaken for each other. But not that, at least as far as I know.
You've emerged as a core special teamer on the NFL's last unbeaten team. Where have you grown the most since your rookie season in 2021?
McPhearson: To sum it up, I think just, overall, owning my role and taking pride in what my role is on the team. My rookie year, I don't wanna say I was lost in the sauce, but there's a lot going on around you, getting a feel for this new league. Now, just understanding my job, it's paying dividends for me.
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Which teammates have you leaned on the most during your young career?
McPhearson: Coming in last year, (Darius) Slay, Rodney McLeod, I had Steve Nelson, Anthony Harris, Marcus Epps -- there are so many vets on this defense. Even James Bradberry this year. Being a young player, being able to learn from them, it makes such a difference.
What do you enjoy most about working with Slay, who has such a big personality?
McPhearson: The fact that he has fun with it. Although it's a very serious job, he brings the fun out of it. He finds fun in every single moment. He embodies it. We joke all the time in meetings about him being older -- you know, he's not old, but being mature in this league -- and he has fun with it. He's also always joking about the hidden part of his game; Slay is actually a really good tackler, knowing how to bring guys to the ground, and he tells us he's the best hit-stick tackler on the team, laying the wood on people. When we're watching film, he's always making sound effects even if he makes a conventional tackle, like, 'Boom!'
Jalen Hurts has been a big reason for the Eagles' hot start. What's it been like to witness his growth?
McPhearson: Jalen's always been a confident guy, but in terms of last year to this year, the steps he took were pretty amazing. He learned so much. It's unreal when, as a quarterback, you can make strides like that, and I give a lot of kudos to him. That's the hardest position in the NFL, and he's been making it look easy. He's one of the heartbeats of this team, and we lean on him.
When the offense and defense are both rolling the way they have, does it make it easy to believe the undefeated record can remain intact into the playoffs?
McPhearson: Yeah, because all that stuff -- the takeaways, the big plays -- it's all contagious. It's infectious. On the sideline I'm always thinking, who's gonna make the next play? I know it's gonna come; it's bound to happen. It's inevitable, because we got the groove.
And what makes this particular team, this locker room, so special?
McPhearson: Everybody cares for each other. And we really mean it when we say that. Everybody has great chemistry. I've been on teams in college and stuff like that, where at the end of practice everybody storms out the locker room, ready to get home. People stick around here. They wanna play pool, shoot hoops together, or just talk. That's always a good sign.
Beyond your playing career, how do you desire to use your platform as an NFL player to aid the community?
McPhearson: I'm in talks, this upcoming offseason or before the start of next season, to start my own foundation. So that's in the works. I've been talking with my family about it. I just wanna help wherever I can. Me being an athlete, I can't play this sport the rest of my life, but while I got the platform, I wanna use it for good.