When James Bradberry signed with the Philadelphia Eagles last week, it signaled a turning point for both the front office and roster. It turned the Eagles from a good to great team on paper. While most players on the defense will be impacted by the former Pro-Bowler’s talent and production, there is one name that stands to get the most out of a signing like this – Darius Slay.
Darius Slay is 31-years-old and is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro in 2022. Three picks, two defensive touchdowns, a second-team All-Pro, and a pro-bowl season to boot. Slay’s resurgence gave the Eagles a true lockdown corner the likes of which haven’t been seen since Eric Allen in the 90’s.
But as good as Slay was in 2022, he also has the most to gain with Bradberry’s signing for a few reasons.
Aging like a fine wine
Like an aging QB needing an infusion of solid OL play to prolong a career, a number one corner is elevated by those around him.
Playing after 30 years old is no longer an archaic thought with the advances in sports health and medicine, but it’s still fair to note that Slay is 31. When a player passes their prime, they can prolong their career by being in the right system, and by having a strong supporting cast around him. Slay is nowhere near a slouch on the field, and one could make the argument he was the best player on the Eagles last season.
But with James Bradberry coming into town, the Eagles now not only have a #1 corner, but a potential 1b option as well to pair with Slay. A player like Bradberry, in the Jonathan Gannon system, will allow Slay to not always draw the toughest matchup on the field (although he’s shown no signs of faltering) and prolong his dominance as a true lockdown corner.
While stats showed that the Eagles defense was a top 10 unit last season, the eye test told a different story. And when top corners go to certain teams, it’s not always the best fit.
It’s pretty clear though that Gannon’s system is designed to put corners in the best possible spot on the field. While Slay is an excellent man-to-man corner, and as solid as Steven Nelson was last season, it was clear that the personnel that Gannon had to work with did not ultimately allow the rest of his unit to flourish.
Enter James Bradberry. His skills as a zone corner, his ability to play man, and his openness about his new scheme set up nicely for Slay. Now, instead of QB’s forcibly staying away from the All-Pro, they may have no choice but to tempt fate. The inverted coverages can confuse a lot of different QB’s leading to even more turnover chances. More turnover chances for a guy like Slay means more TD’s. Slay could have an even better year next year.
Schedule and Attention
It’s been talked about a bunch, but the Eagles do not really play a lot of good offenses or QB’s this year. Outside of Aaaron Rodgers, Dak Prescott, and Kyler Murray, the cupboard is pretty bare when it comes to above-average talent that the Eagles will face.
Herein lies the true impact of Bradberry on Slay. While Slay will expect to get a lot of the top receiving matchups, because most of these QB’s are young, or just not good, it could mean a lot of simplistic single-read looks and even more opportunities for Slay to shine.
It really could go one of two ways. Either Slay dominates the early part of the season, and Bradberry has a career year with the Eagles, or Slay gets ignored early on, Bradberry plays well, and then QB’s are forcing the option to go to Slay and the Eagles have turnover parties in the end zone every week.
Either way, the Bradberry signing sets the stage for a big year for Darius Slay, and the Eagles as a group.
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