All-22: Sizing Up Slay’s Impact
The Eagles finally put an end to their long-standing cornerback woes on Thursday, acquiring Darius Slay from the Detroit Lions in exchange for a third-round pick (85th overall) and fifth-round pick (166th overall) in this year’s draft.
Slay, originally the 36th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, one pick after Eagles tight end Zach Ertz,
has appeared in 103 games over his seven-year career, including 94 starts.
The six-foot, 190-pound cornerback has amassed 347 tackles (5 for loss), 104 passes defended, a sack, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, 19 interceptions, and a touchdown in his career. His list of accolades include being a three-time Pro Bowl selection (2017-19), 2017 first-team All-Pro, and the 2017 NFL Interceptions co-leader.
Last season, Slay played 850 defensive snaps over 14 games, which accounted for 75 percent of the total. Though he battled a myriad of injuries, Slay managed to compile 46 tackles, 13 passes defended, and two interceptions.
Widely considered to be among the upper echelon of cornerbacks, Slay brings the physicality, competitiveness, ball skills, and attitude that have been sorely lacking from Eagles corners for nearly a decade.
His innate ability to match-and-mirror a top receiver’s every move, play inside and outside, and eliminate one side of the field will pay immediate dividends in a division that features the likes of Amari Cooper, Golden Tate, as well as the ascending Terry McLaurin and Darius Slayton.
The clips below provide a sample of what fans can expect from their newest defensive addition.
In the first clip, Slay’s click-and-close ability enables him to squeeze Cowboys’ wide receiver Amari Cooper (14) towards the sideline, forcing a late, back shoulder throw that Slay easily breaks up, which set the tone for the entirety of the game.
Watch as Slay again blankets Cooper in the next video, essentially running the route for the receiver and staying in his hip pocket throughout the duration of the pattern.
Not the most efficient route-running or throw here, but Slay showcases his ability to travel with — and eliminate — the opposition’s primary target.
Cowboy pass catchers Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb both enjoyed 100-yard outings against the Lions while Slay limited Cooper to just three receptions for 38 yards.
One of the few elite cover men in the NFL, Slay not only eliminates one side of the field, he provides the Eagles with some much-needed instincts and ball skills on the back end.
Here’s an example of Slay reading the eyes of the quarterback. Picking up Allen Robinson (12) as he breaks across the field, Slay undercuts the route and takes the football away, returning it 19 yards.
Though the pass was telegraphed, and he was further aided by a slow, drifting route from Robinson, credit Slay for aggressively breaking on the ball and forcing the turnover.
Slay had an uneven performance against the Washington Redskins, specifically against rookie wideout Terry McLaurin (17). In this clip, Slay begins to turn and run with McLaurin, then appears to shift his eyes towards the underneath receiver for a split second. This gives quarterback Dwayne Haskins a wide enough window to thread the needle between Slay and the safety closing in.
Slay’s lack of eye discipline costs him, as McLaurin picks up 26 of his game-high 72 receiving yards on this play.
This final clip comes from a late December matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. While the play ultimately resulted in an acrobatic 44-yard reception by Stefon Diggs (14), I highlighted it to demonstrate Slay’s ability to flip his hips and run stride for stride with a distinguished deep threat — a trait sorely absent from Eagles corners last year.
Credit Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins for delivering a perfect pass that led Diggs towards the sideline, but the Pro Bowl cornerback left little room for error.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network.
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