Philadelphia Eagles: What makes Ronald Darby different?

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 20: Ronald Darby /

The Philadelphia Eagles did the impossible at this point in time: they acquired a high upside cornerback under the age of 24 with two years left on a rookie deal.

They did so at the cost of a 2018 third round pick and Carson Wentz‘s favorite target, Jordan Matthews, but I digress. Say what you want about Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, but the man takes risks. Shooters shoot, and Roseman tried for the buzzer beater on this one.

Ronald Darby is his name, he’s a third year cornerback from Florida State. In his first two seasons he racked up 137 tackles, two interceptions, and 33 passes broken up. Darby runs a sub 4.4 40-yard dash to boot.

Darby had a very good rookie season where he garnered Defensive Rookie of the Year attention, despite ultimately losing to Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters. He had a rough season last year, but this can be chalked up to a sophomore slump. The Bills were also a bad football team in 2016.

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I know what you’re thinking, “if he has such upside, why would a rebuilding team like the Bills willingly trade a young corner like Darby?” There’s a plethora of reasons. The theory I believe is the same theory that led our beloved Philadelphia Eagles to send a young, promising corner up to New England last preseason. He wasn’t a scheme fit. The same excuse that gave Eric Rowe his first Super Bowl ring is why the Eagles landed Ronald Darby.

Peter King reported this in his MMQB article:

"I don’t worry about the Darby deal for Buffalo, because he hadn’t bought into the new administration of Beane and head coach Sean McDermott, and because he wasn’t a great scheme fit for McDermott’s zone coverage."

The Philadelphia Eagles love that Ronald Darby is a prototypical man cornerback. He excels in man-to-man coverage, which coincidentally is the scheme Jim Schwartz likes to run. Get used to seeing Ronald Darby sticking to those tough NFC East receives like glue.

In his rookie year, he covered Odell Beckham Jr. and held the consensus top five receiver to 38 yards on five catches. He was targeted 12 times. Darby got his hands on three of those twelve balls.

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I know, it’s easy to be skeptical about the trade with all of the cornerbacks that Howie Roseman has signed in the past. Take Byron Maxwell for example. As it turned out, Maxwell was a product of the defense run in Seattle. He is/was a cover three corner, something the Eagles didn’t run.

For the most part, every cornerback Howie Roseman signed in the past was a case of trying to fit the metaphorical square peg in the round hole. This time we have a young kid with high upside playing in a scheme he previously exceled in. That’s what makes Darby different than every other corner Roseman has signed in the past.

Get excited! The Philadelphia Eagles finally upgraded the secondary. Come late this season/ next season our cornerback pairing will be Sidney Jones (who might not have been available at 14 overall had he not tore his Achilles) and Ronald Darby with Jalen Mills in the slot and Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod over top. That’s a scary secondary if you ask me. A true “No Phly Zone”, if you will.

It looks like the Birds finally found a corner to build with. I wouldn’t necessarily say cornerback is a strength, but I feel better about entering the season with Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills as our starting two corners as opposed to Mills and Patrick Robinson. It’s very difficult to declare a winner and loser in a trade at this point in time, but from the looks of it the Birds made out pretty well.

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Assuming he can (at least) return to his rookie season form, the Philadelphia Eagles fans will love watching Darby play. All of that said, welcome to the No Phly Zone, Ronald Darby. We’re happy to have you in our secondary.