Why you shouldn’t overlook Kelee Ringo in Eagles’ CB battle

Why you shouldn’t overlook Kelee Ringo in Eagles’ CB battle originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Kelee Ringo watched a couple months ago when the Eagles selected cornerbacks back-to-back in the first and second round of the 2024 draft.

No sweat.

“It’s a great opportunity to compete more,” Ringo said.

Ringo is confident as he enters his second year in the NFL and that confidence has shown up on the field this spring as he’s gotten significant work with the Eagles’ first-team defense under new coordinator Vic Fangio.

This spring, you’ve heard plenty about draft picks Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean, as well as Isaiah Rodgers, who was reinstated after serving a yearlong suspension.

But it would be a mistake to overlook Ringo.

Because he already has one NFL season under his belt — a season that included four starts and significant playing time down the stretch — and he doesn’t even turn 22 until later this month.

And the game is just starting to slow down for him as he enters Year 2.

“I feel like the best thing that can help you with that is definitely reps,” Ringo said. “Having a year under my belt has definitely helped me be more calm with my play and also just seeing what offenses are doing against me and strategies and things like that.”

The Eagles kicked off their mandatory minicamp this week. And Ringo (6-2, 207) on Tuesday worked exclusively with the first-team defense as the right cornerback opposite Darius Slay and on Wednesday he was a part of the rotation at that spot.

More importantly, Ringo has been sticky in coverage and has made plays in all three practices that have been open to reporters this spring.

What’s different about Ringo’s game these days?

“A little bit more patience,” he said. “My processing the game when the ball’s hiked. I’m not having to think as much as I used to. So I feel like that just slows down the game a lot more for me so I’m able to play a lot faster and think less.”

The Eagles’ competition at the cornerback position this spring and summer is one of the biggest storylines about the team. Because not only do the Eagles have a bunch of young players at the position, they have a bunch of good young players at the position. Ringo is just one of them.

It seems pretty obvious that the Eagles are at least moving on from the idea of James Bradberry being a starting outside cornerback, which leaves that job open as well as the nickel spot. The only thing we really know is that Slay is going to be one of the starters on the outside.

The top guys fighting for that other outside cornerback spot appear to be Ringo, Rodgers and Mitchell — the three that rotated at that RCB spot on Wednesday.

And while you might just expect the No. 22 overall pick, Mitchell, to end up in that starting spot, it’s not a given. And if Mitchell isn’t ready for that role in Week 1, then there’s a good chance that Ringo is going to be the guy.

“Kelee is difficult at times going against,” star receiver A.J. Brown said. “Because I go against him a lot. He’s definitely growing. You can see a different step with him. I”m not going to put too much pressure on him but you definitely see a different step with him. He’s hungry, he’s competing at a high level.”

Last season, Ringo entered the NFL as a raw 20-year-old fourth-round pick and it took him a long time to see any type of significant game action. Ringo played just 1 defensive snap in the first 12 games of the Eagles season.

But his play against Brown on scout team and an injury to Slay pushed Ringo up the depth chart and he played well down the stretch for a defense that was otherwise in a complete free-fall.

Ringo played 198 of his 199 defensive snaps as a rookie over the final five weeks of the season. He even forced the Eagles to implement a rotation in the playoff loss to the Buccaneers after he earned his opportunity.

“I feel like I played pretty decent but I feel like there’s always room to get better, specifically at the corner position,” Ringo said. “I feel like it’s arguably one of the hardest positions on the field. So just little things coming out of my breaks, being able to see what offenses are doing against me, seeing formations and just learning concepts and things like that can definitely help me play at a higher level than I did as well.”

During the 2023 pre-draft process, Ringo garnered some first-round buzz before ultimately falling into Day 3. That’s when the Eagles traded away a 2024 third-rounder to get near the top of the fourth round to select him.

Had Ringo stayed at Georgia for another season, he might have solidified his status as a Day 1 or Day 2 pick. Instead, he spent the 2023 season developing on an NFL roster.

“Definitely got to grow up fast,” Ringo said. “I feel like that’s one of the biggest things. It’s do or die. That’s the best way I can explain it.”

Because Ringo was so young when he entered the NFL, he’s actually younger than several of the Eagles’ 2024 draft picks, including Mitchell. And even if Ringo doesn’t end up as a starter this season, there’s a chance he could be the top backup on the outside and a starter of the future.

The 2025 Eagles could have a cornerback group of Mitchell, Ringo and DeJean, which would give the franchise an incredible young trio of players at a position where they haven’t had much homegrown talent in recent years.

The competition this summer is going to be fierce and Ringo is certainly in the mix for a starting spot. He’s also off to a good start.

“I would definitely say all it does is make us better because everything is up for grabs,” he said. “Just having the opportunity to compete for everything that everybody wants, I feel like that definitely brings the best out of every single one out here.”

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