Eagles’ Darius Slay Hints at Role, Dismisses Strange Tackling Claim

Darius Slay

Getty Darius Slay during a game against the Browns.

Darius Slay will do whatever it takes to make the Eagles’ defense better. And tackling is at the very top of that list.

The new number one cornerback in Philadelphia didn’t take kindly when one local reporter questioned his tackling prowess on Monday. Slay seemed confused and angry about that opinion (one not shared universally among the beat writers), just look at his numbers: 347 career tackles in seven stellar seasons.

He even has a highlight-reel, touchdown-saving tackle on his resume from 2018 when he tracked D.J. Moore 70 yards down the field. Slay’s reputation speaks for itself. Still, the three-time Pro Bowl player felt the need to defend himself after being called out for missing too many tackles in 2019.

“You say what? Tackling? I can tackle,” Slay said when asked about missing tackles. “You saying what again? I’m not understanding you … yeah, that’s a next question.”

The Eagles acquired Slay in a trade from Detroit where he was mostly used incorrectly before falling out of favor with Lions coach Matt Patricia. The 29-year-old has forced 85 incompletions since 2014, the most over that span — and consistently shut down the opposition’s top receiver, including big names like Amari Cooper and Stefon Diggs.

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Slay’s Role May Change Week to Week

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz plans to use Slay as a traditional shutdown cornerback, mostly in man coverage. That means he’ll swap from left to right, depending on where the top target lines up. And his role could literally change from play to play and he may even be forced into playing some nickel corner in certain situations.

Whatever it is, Slay is up for the challenge. He just wants to compete and win football games.

“It’s going to work however the D coordinator wants it to work,” Slay said. “He already kind of put out there that I’ll be following and matching [the top receiver] which I can do and been doing. I’m very comfortable with it, but I’m just here to work so whatever he needs me to do, to make the defense better, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Schwartz should know how to get the most out of Slay more than any other coach. Schwartz was the one who drafted him in the second round (36th overall) back in 2013 when he was the head coach in Detroit. The two clearly have mutual respect and admiration for each other. Seven years later, Slay smiles thinking about Schwartz.

“He’s still the same, he’s still got that energy,” Slay said. “Still a guy that goes after the quarterback and loves to be aggressive. Ain’t much changed, really, still the same guy from seven years ago.”


Eagles Treat Players Like ‘Grown Men’

When asked what he noticed first about the Eagles’ locker room, Slay quickly pointed to the culture. There is a certain freedom and camaraderie that he didn’t feel in Detroit (another subtle shot at Patricia). Head coach Doug Pederson allows guys to be themselves, something that meshes with Slay’s fun-loving personality.

“What I love about this team is you can see that everybody is themself,” Slay said. “There’s not no shell, like you can’t do this or you can’t do that. It’s basically like you’re being treated like grown men. I like the aspect of that.”

The eight-year veteran admitted that he won’t look to replace Malcolm Jenkins’ leadership. That job has been largely assumed by safety Rodney McLeod to date. But Slay does consider himself a guy his teammates can look up to, more by watching his example on the field than by screaming expletives.

“I saw Malcolm more as a vocal guy. I’m more of an example guy,” Slay said. “I would never compare myself to Malcolm. I don’t like the rah-rah and the hoo-hah because we are grown professional men and we know what’s at stake.”

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