For most of his career, when and if the Philadelphia Eagles thought about ‘Big Play’, better known as Darius Slay, they normally did so for one reason. It was his game-ending interception in Week 5 of the 2016 regular season that halted a would-be Eagles comeback attempt in the Motor City versus the Detriot Lions.
If only there was time to discuss the Eagles’ zany history versus the Lions and why the midnight green always seems to screw things up versus what’s supposed to be an inferior Lions team. That’s another tale for another time though, but how about this for banter?
Believe it or not, Slay’s pick versus Wentz was the first interception Carson Wentz threw in the NFL. That one sounds like a great office party trivia question, doesn’t it? The better question right now is all about Slay.
Can he be the turnover machine in 2021 that Birds fans thought they were getting a little over a year ago? He notched one pick in 2020, and that isn’t by any means a Darius Slay-type campaign.
Philadelphia Eagles fans want to see a few more big plays from Slay in 2021.
Philly landed ‘Big Play’ via trade on March 20th of 2020 and immediately signed him to a three-year deal worth $50 million including $30 million guaranteed. It was sort of seen as a make-up date after some frustration that the Philadelphia Eagles, knowing they needed a big addition at the cornerback position during the offseason, allowed former rival Byron Jones to get away and sign with the Miami Dolphins.
They also sat by idly as the man seen as the second-best option on the free-agent market, James Bradberry, signed with the rival New York Giants. Bradberry picked off Wentz a season ago in the end zone versus the Birds in Week 7. Carson gift-wrapped that one, but it was no doubt a drive that Philly could have scored points on.
Then again, you saw how Jake Elliott played in 2020, so there’s no guarantee that’s accurate. Anyway, you get the idea. Forgive the ramble. Wentz’s performance in 2020 is still a sore subject. Where were we? Oh, that’s right Darius Slay…
He may not have been the Philadelphia Eagles’ first option, but this is one of those things, whether intentional or by happenstance, that Howie Roseman actually got right. Slay’s a better player than Jones and Bradberry, and most NFL pundits would agree with that. Recently, in a ranking of the NFL’s ten best cover guys, Number 2 (he’s going to look good in that jersey number) finished in the ninth position.
Here’s some of what ESPN staff writer Jeremy Fowler, the author of this one, had to say on the subject.
"Most teams agree Slay isn’t a top-five guy anymore, but they do expect a bounce-back year after an uneven first season in Philadelphia…“When he’s high-motor, he’s dangerous,” an NFC coach said. “When something goes wrong or if he’s in a funk, he can be a liability.”Pro Football Focus moved Slay outside of the top-20 corners for 2021 after producing a 62.9 rating last season. “Philly didn’t exactly help him last year,” an AFC scout said. “They put him on an island and he probably didn’t have enough support.”"
Just in case you’re wondering both Jones and Bradberry are absent from the list. Jones’ teammate, Xavien Howard however did make the list at number three.
Fowler also laments that the Philadelphia Eagles star has produced 20 interceptions and 110 pass deflections over the course of his first eight seasons in the NFL. That includes the 2017 season where he was the game’s co-leader in interceptions with a total of eight.
Slay can ball. The numbers and his three Pro Bowl nominations prove that. Now all this team needs is for him to morph back into the turnover machine that earned him the ‘Big Play’ nickname in the first place. By the looks of things, there’s no reason to believe that will be an impossible task.