Eagles Defensive Star Eyes Switch to Offense

Darius Slay

Getty Eagles cornerback Darius Slay joked about showing off his ball skills on offense.

The Philadelphia Eagles are making big plays on both sides of the ball, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that Darius “Big Play” Slay is eyeing a change to wide receiver to swap jobs with wide receiver DeVonta Smith. The topic came up in jest, as Slay was discussing Smith’s skillset after the young receiver went off for eight catches, 169 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s a freak of nature, you know what I’m saying?” Slay told NBC Sports Philadelphia after the 24-8 win over the Commanders on September 25. “You see all the twisting body. Did you see, first of all, he grabbed the ball up in the air, like way up there, like he attacked the ball like a DB [defensive back] is supposed to, you know what I’m saying?

“He’s got that DB mindset, you know, he’s a DB at heart, he wants to be a DB, he would have come over here and played corner,” Slay said. “I told him I want to be a receiver, so we could really switch, you know what I’m saying? Now, I could be the fast and skinny Batman.”

While Slay was kidding around, his joke is rooted in some truth. During high school, Slay played both running back and defensive back.

At Itawamba Community College, Slay was primarily a defender, but he did catch three passes for 63 yards and a touchdown in his sophomore season. It wasn’t until he got to Mississippi State that Slay stayed strictly on the defensive side of the ball.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason Slay has such good ball skills as a defensive back.

Jonathan Gannon Praises Cornerback Avonte Maddox

Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon opened up during his press conference about the role nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox has played in the defense so far. Because of Maddox’s high level of play, Gannon is able to call defensive plays without worrying about what Maddox is capable of doing on his own.

“IIf you have to protect the nickel, that spot a lot, it’s hard,” Gannon said on September 27. “We don’t have to protect [CB] Avonte [Maddox], he can play all the coverages we ask him to play. We put him in a lot of tough down situations with not a lot of help. He can win one on one. What he does as far as with communication, with the back end, the coverage adjustments, being in the run game, blitzing, playing zone, playing man, it’s a luxury to have.”

Through three games, Maddox has 16 tackles, one interception, and two passes defended.

Rookie Defensive Tackle Jordan Davis Growing In His Role

First round pick Jordan Davis played in about 31% of the Eagles defensive snaps this week according to Pro Football Focus, getting onto the field for 24 of 77. That put him fifth in the rotation, with Javon Hargrave leading the way with 41, followed by Milton Williams at 38, Fletcher Cox at 36 and Marlon Tuipulotu at 34.

But Gannon’s been happy with his progression thus far in the young season.

“I thought he played well,” Gannon said. “Man, I don’t think a lot of people see it, but there’s a weekly improvement from him. What [Defensive Line Coach] Tracy [Rocker] is asking him to do and improve, he’s improving. We see that. He’s going to continue to maximize his opportunities. That’s a good room. We have five guys up on game day, and they all play.”

Gannon said that’s been helpful in keeping all of the players fresh and using them in the situations that best suit their skill set.

“That whole room, they know their role,” Gannon explained. “That’s what we talk about with those guys, be a star within your role. When you get other opportunities that’s not your baby, maximize those opportunities. That’s what they’re doing.”

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