Eagles cornerback Darius Slay was never going to play perfectly forever. There was always going to be one play he gave up eventually. That huge completion to Slayton probably wouldn’t have mattered if the Eagles had even moderate help on the other side.
After getting back into the game with a huge touchdown, Daniel Jones and the Giants walked back onto the field with a 3-point lead. A deep shot against Avonte Maddox pushed them 27-yards down the field. This was immediately followed by a 38-yard gain on Nickell Robey-Coleman and before we even had a chance to comprehend what had happened, the Giants had negated the touchdown just scored by the Eagles by putting up 7 points of their own. If there was ever a sequence of plays that highlighted the need for a reliable running-mate opposite Darius Slay, that was it.
The Eagles took a risk this season in going all-in in Avonte Maddox. It’s not that he isn’t capable of holding his own outside, but more so that his height (5’10) and twitchy skill-set lends itself generously to a nickel role as opposed to manning up against more physically dominant receivers outside. Maddox plays bigger than his size suggests but had always predominantly a nickel corner. That’s absolutely fine, but behind him, there is no insurance policy.
The Eagles already had Cre’Von LeBlanc and added Nickell Robey-Coleman to the mix this offseason, opting to part ways with Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones in favor of a flurry of slot cornerbacks. NRC has been torched all season long and Maddox has battled injuries and inconsistencies, leaving the Eagles with a fairly severe need at CB2 for what feels like the fifth year in a row.
The team shouldn’t have to be hoping for practice squad miracles like we saw briefly from Michael Jacquet before the bye. This is a problem that should have been addressed in the off-season, not one that was actively made worse.
There isn’t too much the Eagles can do about it right now, either. There’s a tough run of games on the horizon with a string of WR2’s who are not only lethal, but also look poised to brutalize a much shorter Avonte Maddox if left on an island:
Rashard Higgins (6’1): 15 rec, 220 yards 2TD
DK Metcalf (6’4): 45 rec, 816 yards, 8TD
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (6’4): 22 rec, 463 yards, 4 TD
Avonte Maddox does still have a chance to turn his season around. After a trial by fire against Green Bay last year, he’s settled into an outside role over time, with his 4.39 40-yard dash acting as his lifesaver to force himself back into plays against stout receiving talent. However, his PFF grade of 41.9 isn’t good enough and this feels like a wasted season.
Now, with the season crumbling before them, the Eagles are left wounded after an opening stanza where CB play had never really been an issue, but more of an underlying concern. Darius Slay’s presence alone was enough to somewhat mask the deficiencies the position was really hiding, but as this year continues to unravel, so do those flaws…and quarterbacks are just simply not going to target big-play Slay when there is a glaring mismatch on the other side.
The Eagles should’ve kept Maddox in the nickel and signed an actual outside cornerback, allowing the team’s fourth-round pick to thrive in his comfort zone. Instead, he’s walking a tightrope in what will now be a stretch of games that will do nothing but shake it violently.
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