While the Eagles offense struggled to do anything of note on Sunday, the defense did not. More specifically, the secondary had not only its biggest day of the Jonathan Gannon era, but arguably its most productive in years with three interceptions. Darius Slay looked like he was back to his Pro Bowl best against the Panthers, and the Eagles will need him to be performing at that level again on Sunday.
Slay played the kind of football fans had been crying out for ever since he signed during the heart of last offseason. Peeling off of his zone responsibility to high-point a pass was a thing of sheer beauty and acted as a stark reminder as to why he earned the nickname ‘Big play Slay’.
Going up against DJ Moore wasn’t exactly going to be an easy task. One of the biggest rising stars in the league, the Panthers wideout had 398 yards through 4 weeks and a hat-trick of touchdowns. Against Darius Slay, he was targeted 4 times and caught only 2 passes for 14 yards. He had a passer rating of 18.7 when targeted. This left a very strong impression on defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who sung his praises on Tuesday.
I thought Slay did an excellent job. He rose to the challenge. And like all our players, he is a guy that, ‘Whatever I can do to help the team, that’s what I’m going to do.’ So, it was a good response from him.
He is a premium corner. So, most of the premium corners in the league like that challenge because that shows – it’s their ability to show everyone that they are premium corners, when you can go shut out a top guy. But he also knows that if it’s not the right thing for us that week, then he will do what we ask of him. So he has been really good with that as far as saying, ‘Okay, well, I want to go versus this guy.’ ‘Yeah, but it’s not the best thing for everybody else, Slay.’ ‘Okay, I got it.’ ‘Hey, this week we want you to go with DJ.’ ‘Okay, got it.’ So, he has been awesome to be around.Jonathan Gannon
That last part could be absolutely vital for the team’s opponent on Thursday.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a ferocious receiving corps. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans headline the group and already have a combined 761 yards and 6 touchdowns. Antonio Brown adds another 325 Yards and 3 touchdowns, making for one of the most productive groups in the entire league. With a razor-sharp Tom Brady picking apart defenses week after week, the Eagles will need Darius Slay to bring his A-game and neutralize his side of the field.
Whether Slay shadows Godwin or is asked to move around depending on matchup, both he and Steven Nelson need to shine as brightly as they did against Carolina. The Eagles have made it clear that they’re not a team who want to roll out nickel and dime packages, meaning that there could be extra strain on the tandem to hold down the fort if the linebackers and safeties begin leaking yards.
Slay looked revitalized against Carolina. His opening season in Philadelphia wasn’t exactly filled with highlight moments and his best work came in the way of taking the majority of opposing #1 wideouts out of the equation entirely. The issue the Eagles have this week is that the Bucs have three of them. But, if Slay can ride that wave of confidence and momentum and generate more turnovers or alienate one of Brady’s top targets, then the team absolutely have a chance at springing a surprise on Thursday night.
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