16 games with 16 starts, 52 total tackles, nine pass breakups, two fumble recoveries (both of which resulted in touchdowns), and another touchdown on three interceptions on the season. That will be the story we tell whenever we look back and reminisce on Darius Slay‘s 2021-2022 season as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, one that resulted in a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Just in case you’re keeping score, that doubles as the fourth Pro Bowl nod of Big Play’s career. Say what you want to say about Jonathan Gannon, but there are quite a few players on the Eagles defense that shined under his watch.
Marcus Epps, Avonte Maddox, Davion Taylor, and T.J. Edwards took steps forward. Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat earned spots on the Pro Bowl roster. It took too long, but it happened. If you’re still keeping a tally, that’s the first Pro Bowl nod for both of them.
That isn’t Gannon’s entire story though. We all are very aware of that. Some might argue the success of everyone on Philadelphia’s defense (the players who experienced some measure of such) was more about their effort than anything Gannon was doing. Here’s another way of saying that. People succeeded despite J.G.’s presence and not because of it.
There were times when Gannon’s defense was on pace for one of the worst statistical showings in NFL history, and yes, he was allowed to interview for a few head-coaching vacancies, but he clearly has much to learn.
Some say that he doesn’t have the horses. Others believe he isn’t aggressive enough. Others still say that’s because, again, he doesn’t have the horses. Whatever theory you prescribe to, Jonathan Gannon’s return to the Eagles didn’t, shall we say, ignite the fan base, but Big Play couldn’t be happier.
In a recent discussion with NJ Advance Media ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, Big Play spoke on the need for defensive continuity and his feelings about Gannon’s return. Be forewarned, his thoughts about another run with Philly’s DC may not mirror your own.
"I always want the best for him. I wish he would become a head coach, because that’s always [been] the dream too, for him, but with him being able to come back as our DC, it’s a blessing. We get another year under his coaching scheme and I’ve got a way better understanding of it. I can’t wait to see how exciting it would be for us this year."
Fingers are crossed that he’s right. If he is, we could see something special out of this unit in 2022.
Whether you agree with him or not, it’s nice to have Darius Slay on our side.
It’s easy to pick on Howie Roseman sometimes. Heaven knows he’s given us plenty of ammunition, but history has taught us that, right when you want to throw in the towel and throw your hands up in the air to admit defeat, he gives you a reason to believe again… You know, sort of like a bad relationship that you know you should have ended a year ago. Just look at the trade he made to land Darius Slay and the good fruit that has come since his arrival.
For much of Big Play’s career, he’s been interesting and one of the NFL’s best talents at the cornerback position, but Philadelphia Eagles fans never really got charged up over his playmaking ability. That’s true for two reasons.
One, Birds fans don’t have the same level of disdain for the Detroit Lions that they have for the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Washington Commanders. Second, whenever the Eagles have played the Detroit and Slay was playing for the opponent, he’s been an issue.
Just in case you’ve forgotten, the first interception of Carson Wentz’s career was a game-ender that landed in Darius Slay’s hands. The Lions were 3-0 versus our beloved Birds with Big Play in the lineup. That includes that 45-14 massacre on Thanksgiving Day in 2015.
Thank goodness those days are over. Thank goodness, he’s on our side now.