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Getty Fourth-round pick Zech McPhearson is fighting for a role in the Philadelphia Eagles' secondary.

One position room is getting pretty crowded in Philadelphia. With 12 cornerbacks rostered, the Eagles may be running out of seats in the room. It’s a good problem to have.

Zech McPhearson, a fourth-round pick in 2021, is fighting for one of those chairs at training camp.

It’s hard to get noticed with so many corners running around, but the talented 24-year-old is doing his best to standout. He made an acrobatic, leaping interception on Gardner Minshew on August 2 that elicited a few oohs from the media contingent watching practice. Problem was, McPhearson landed out of bounds. Play negated. A few plays later, he was burned for a touchdown by Jalen Reagor.

Those things are going to happen at camp, sometimes it leads to a breakthrough teaching moment from the coaching staff. McPhearson was a surprise standout last summer, but defensive snaps were at a premium once the season began. He got to start the regular-season finale in Week 18 as the Eagles rested their starters.

K'Von Wallace, Zech McPhearson, Kary Vincent, and Andre Chachere have played a combined 310 snaps on defense this season heading into Week 18 (Vincent never played one).

Dak Prescott went 5 for 6 on that opening drive with a TD.#Eagles #Cowboys

— Jeff Kerr (@JeffKerrCBS) January 9, 2022

That experience guided his offseason. He came back stronger, adding about five pounds to his 5-foot-11 frame while burying himself in the playbook.

“I got a lot stronger, gained a lot of weight. I’m right around, like 196 [pounds] now,” McPhearson told reporters. “I know it’s not necessarily tangible but just me being able to play faster, knowing this playbook, being able to play faster. [This] being my second year out there, I can move around fast. I don’t gotta think as much.”

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Learning From 2 Pro Bowlers: ‘Be a Sponge’

Playing behind Darius Slay and James Bradberry has to be dream come true for a young cornerback learning the ropes. Turns out, it is. McPhearson is soaking in every minute like that old trusted, soggy sponge that never leaves the kitchen sink.

“I think it’s extremely fun to have two guys like that, both Pro Bowlers, I mean not a lot of people get that opportunity,” McPhearson said. “Just to learn from two people of that caliber, I try to take full advantage of it, and be a sponge every day, and take something away from them.”

Year ✌️ for @ZMcphearson #EaglesCamp | #FlyEaglesFly

— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) August 4, 2022

McPhearson has made quite an impression on one of those Pro Bowlers. Slay showered the second-year player with praise when camp opened, calling McPhearson his eventual successor. The two spent the offseason working out together and Slay often chats up the youngster during practices.

“He’s just grinding, working hard,” Slay said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I’m trying to teach him everything I know because one of these days he’ll be taking my position. That’s the goal for me as a veteran guy. I want a younger guy to be the next me or even better. So, my goal is to keep working him.”

Darius Slay coaching up a young CB after practice. Does it almost every day #Eagles

— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) August 2, 2022

Everyone Pushing Each Other in CB Room

Slay and Bradberry are entrenched as the starting cornerbacks, with Avonte Maddox owning the nickel spot. After them, it’s an all-out battle royale for the final spots. The Eagles kept five corners coming out of 2021 camp, a number likely to jump this year due to high volume (12) at the position.

5) CB Zech McPhearson arguably made the defensive play of the day — even if it didn't count. He rose up along the left sideline and intercepted a Gardner Minshew pass intended for Hightower. The refs ruled he landed out of bounds, negating the pick, but it was a pretty play.

— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) August 2, 2022

Despite the heated competition, the room remains friendly and confident. Everyone is pushing each other to get better.

“It’s a good dynamic, a lot of different personalities, a lot of competition so it pushes you,” McPhearson said. “We’re deep, so I mean, that’s how we like it going into camp. We all brothers at the end of the day, but we all are competing too.”

When asked about the secondary, Nick Sirianni says that the Eagles have a lot of good young corners that the team is excited about. He named Zech McPhearson, Tay Gowan, Mac McCain, and Kary Vincent.

— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2022

Of course, the biggest personality in that room is Slay. No question about it.

“He’s the most extreme personality we got,” McPhearson said, “but he’s a good dude.”

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Tags: football nfl breaking news 5 fast facts crime politics shopping it’s a good philadelphia eagles gardner minshew pic twitter com is fighting mcphearson one of those be a sponge darius slay pro bowlers second year

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South Africa warns Blinken over US policies aimed at boxing out Russia and China

A recent congressional push against Russian influence in Africa threw a bit of a wrench into Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s plans to improve U.S. ties with one of the continent’s leading states.

He arrived in South Africa in part to unveil a new U.S. strategy for sub-Saharan Africa, which is in the midst of a population growth surge that could propel African societies to economic and political heights. “By 2050, 1 in 4 people on this planet will be African,” he said. “So this is the future, quite literally. And what we’re investing in is that future.”

Blinken touted that investment while attempting to surmount the impediments left by the history of Western imperialism in Africa, a legacy that China and Russia routinely invoke while advancing their strategic interests in the region. South Africa's foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, acknowledged that Blinken “confirmed that America is not asking us to choose” sides in a new geopolitical struggle, but she didn’t hide her displeasure for a House-passed bill that would require the State Department to assess and “to hold accountable the Russian Federation and African governments and their officials who are complicit in aiding such malign influence and activities,” as the legislation put it.

“In terms of our interaction with some of our partners in Europe and elsewhere, there has been a sense of patronizing bullying toward ‘you choose this or else,’ and the recent legislation passed in the United States of America by the House of Representatives we found a most unfortunate bill that we had hoped the media would say more about,” Pandor said. “Because when we believe in freedom — as I’m saying, it’s freedom for everybody — you can’t say because Africa is doing this, you will then be punished by the United States.”


That complaint implied that the bill reflected the “antiquated and patriarchal views” that House Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), the author of the legislation, has warned the State Department to avoid.

“When the United States is not at the table to support our African partners, we often leave them no other choice but to seek partners of last resort. I've heard this from our African counterparts time and time again,” he said during a recent roundtable. “We are seeing the effects of these decisions ripple across the continent, including through the increased presence of corrupt and unaccountable Russian and other foreign mercenaries and the growing influence of foreign adversaries, who are actively undermining the rules-based order and democratic systems to which most Africans aspire.”

Blinken took up Meeks’s argument while sidestepping the criticism of his bill. “What we’re seeing Russia mostly export to the most challenged places on the continent is its proxy, the Wagner Group, which is resulting in increased death and destruction in far too many countries,” Blinken said. “But part of the reason that the Wagner Group has some traction is that in the absence of an alternative to building security, countries may sign on and sign up. ... What we’re focused on is a much more holistic approach that gets at some of the root causes that lead to state failure, that lead to people having deep frustration and seeing no hope for the future, and changing that trajectory.”

Doing the press conference and a subsequent speech, Blinken touted a 2019 law sponsored by Meeks’s predecessor in the committee chair, rather than the pending proposal “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act” that Pandor criticized, as the basis for the U.S. strategy in Africa.

“We won’t treat democracy as an area where Africa has problems and the United States has solutions,” Blinken told an audience at the University of Pretoria. “We recognize that our democracies face common challenges, which we need to tackle together as equals alongside other governments, civil society, and citizens.”

That message, delivered after his press conference with Pandor, might as well have been drafted with her unmistakable warning in mind.

“If your tactic is to approach African countries and say ... 'Listen, you must be democratic either and use our model. It works,' I think it’s bound to lead to some failure,” she said during the press conference. "To come in and seek to teach a country that we know how democracy functions and we’ve come to tell you, 'You do it, it’ll work for you,' I think it leads to defeat, so we need to think in different ways.”

Yet Blinken’s pledge during his speech to “work with partners to tackle 21st-century threats to democracy like misinformation, digital surveillance, weaponized corruption” pointed to the tension that U.S. policymakers face between partnering with African officials and blocking the inroads that Russia and China pave with bribes and support for human rights abusers.

"After all, we’ve seen the consequences when international infrastructure deals are corrupt and coercive, when they’re poorly built or environmentally destructive, when they import or abuse workers or burden countries with crushing debts,” he said at the university. “That’s why it’s so important for countries to have choices, to be able to weigh them transparently with the input of local communities without pressure or coercion.”

Pandor agreed on the need for "broader discussions about governance and democracy” but implied that these conversations wouldn’t align African states with Washington against Beijing.


“African countries that wish to relate to China, let them do so, whatever the particular form of relationships would be,” she said. "We can’t be made party to conflict between China and the United States of America, and I may say it does cause instability for all of us because it affects the global economic system. We really hope that the United States and China will arrive at a point of rapprochement where all of us can look to economic development and growth for all our countries because that’s extremely important for all of us.”

Antony Blinken News Foreign Policy National Security Africa China Russia

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