Were we wrong about Darius Slay’s role with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020?
Heading into 2020’s version of the free-agency period, everyone that knows anything about the Philadelphia Eagles kept drifting back to a similar conclusion. The cornerback position needed to be addressed. It may have even been the biggest question mark on this Eagles roster.
What did Philly do first? They resigned several of their own guys (Nate Sudfeld, Hassan Ridgeway, Jalen Mills, and Rodney McLeod), and their first splash signing came on March 18th in the form of a defensive tackle, Javon Hargrave.
That isn’t to take away anything from Hargrave. He’s a monster that should pay huge dividends in 2020, but some of the excitement that should have come along with his acquisition when everyone noticed that Philly still hadn’t answered a very serious question. Who’s going to cover these wise receivers on the other side of the ball?
Frustration gave way to anger as the men believed to be the two best corners on the market, Byron Jones and James Bradberry signed with other teams (and Bradberry signed with a rival, the New York Giants). Then, Eagles executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman did what Howie does. He pulled off something in the eleventh hour (and seemingly out of nowhere).
Finally, after what seemed like forever (it was only a day after the Eagles added Hargrave), Philly traded a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to the Detroit Lions for Darius Slay. Suddenly all was forgiven, and Howie was seen as a man that was doing his job correctly again. That is at least until the draft, but that’s another story for another day.
We thought we knew what Slay’s role was but…
Any mention of the signing of a cornerback of Slay’s caliber leads everyone to the same conclusion. Just let him follow the other team’s best receiver around all day long. Keep in mind the fact that we’re talking about the man who snagged the first-ever interception thrown in Carson Wentz’s career.
Some of us never even considered the fact that Philly may have other plans for the three-time Pro Bowl nod. Why would we? Recently, however, Philly”s defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke with several members of the media, and he shed a little light on a subject many of us have been debating for four-and-a-half months. Take a look.
So, I don’t know that (shadowing the other team’s best receiver is) going to be a 100-percent, all-the-time thing. Maybe it’s a particular game. Maybe it’s 50 percent of the games. Maybe it’s 75 percent of the games that Slay is matching a particular receiver, but you will see that from our defense.
Might we see him both inside and outside or in various roles? “General Schwartz” touched on that as well.
In order to do that, it’s not just on Slay to know inside and outside, which we have a very good comfort level with and feel like he can do that… If Slay lines up at the nickel, the nickel needs to be able to line up at the outside corner and you need to be able to play man and zone, and blitz from that same look.
We’ve known for a long time that Philly likes versatility, particularly on defense. With K’Von Wallace, who lined up everywhere for the Clemson Tigers, Jalen Mills, and now Slay, it’s going to be hard for offensive coordinators to game plan.
This could be a big year for the Eagles on defense. They’re young at linebacker, but they have tons of speed and some youthful exuberance. They’ve got the interior of the defensive line and the safety position figured out. If one or two guys can step up at the defensive end position and both Slay and newly-acquired slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman are what we think they are (and we believe that they are), this Eagles defense could have offensive coordinators pulling their hair out all season long.