A reporter asked an innocuous question to Darius Slay on Wednesday regarding Rodney McLeod’s health. The shutdown cornerback flashed his trademark smile and offered that McLeod looked “amazing.”
Slay admitted that he teared up when he first saw him back on the practice field, then added: “I wish he was out there for Week 1.” The unofficial injury report came out of the blue since no one had asked about McLeod’s playing status for Sunday. He is listed as the starter at strong safety on the unofficial depth chart, although his absence in team drills has been telling. If McLeod can’t go in Week 1, Marcus Epps would likely start.
While it was odd to hear a player drop breaking news in a pre-practice press conference, it isn’t surprising. McLeod has been rehabbing from season-ending ACL surgery all summer and relegated to individual drills in practice. The Eagles’ decision to protect safety Elijah Riley on the practice squad should have been the first clue that something was amiss.
Here is the full quote from Slay when asked about McLeod:
You talking about my teammate? He looks amazing! Like, you know, doing his thing. I wish he was out there, man. But he’s doing good, man, watching him evolve over the offseason working out, man. It brought tears to my eyes to see how hard he’s been working. Unfortunately, you know, I wish he was out here Week 1 but you know how the NFL rules is. He’s been doing well, proud of him, and he’s going to keep continuing dominating.
Not sure what NFL rule Slay is referring to in that quote. The Eagles chose not to place McLeod on injured reserve coming out of camp. Maybe the team is planning to add him to IR this week. If so, McLeod would have to sit out at least three weeks. Stay tuned.
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Stopping Calvin Ridley Top Priority
The Eagles have keyed in on trying to stop Julio Jones in previous matchups versus Atlanta. Those blueprints have mostly landed in the compost heap, 703 yards and five touchdowns for Jones against Philly since 2011.
But Jones was traded to Tennessee in the offseason. He won’t be their problem this week. Their new nemesis is Calvin Ridley, the new No. 1 receiver in Atlanta. And Ridley might be the best route-runner in football, according to Slay.
“He’s a very talented guy, a guy that can go get it, speed,” Slay said of Ridley. “I honestly think he’s one of the best route-runners in the league so everybody is looking forward to it. It’s a good challenge for each and every one of us out on the field to contain him, and they got the rookie [Kyle] Pitts who is a very good guy, from Florida, so it’s going to be a very good challenge, looking forward to it.”
Slay Played Six Bad Quarters in 2020
There was a lot of negativity surrounding Slay’s 2020 campaign, his first in midnight green. Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 23 among the 32 best outside cornerbacks in football. They noted that his coverage grade had dropped 30.5 points across the last two years.
Maybe it wasn’t all Slay’s fault last year in Philly. The three-time Pro Bowler told reporters he thought he had six bad quarters on the year.
“If you watch film, I only had a game and a half that was pretty bad to me, the DK [Metcalf] game,” Slay said. “Other than that, I think I had did my job, with the other matchups in the league. But the biggest ones I had were on national TV and that’s all people remember is the stuff on national TV.”
The full game came against DK Metcalf (177 yards on 10 catches) and the Seattle Seahawks, while the half-game came against Davante Adams (121 yards on 10 catches, two touchdowns) and the Green Bay Packers.
“If you knew the defense, the plays that was made was because of the defense,” Slay said. “It wasn’t because of like what I had to do with it. So I’d say a game and a half, that’s it.”