After quarterback Carson Wentz, newly acquired corner Darius Slay has a strong case as the next most important player on the Philadelphia Eagles for the 2020 season.
The future Hall of Famer says that the Philadelphia Eagles acquired Darius Slay specifically to shut down Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper during the teams’ clashes, and there’s a lot of merit to that. Take it a step further, and Slay will also be tasked with Redskins receiver Terry McLaurin twice a year, as well as perhaps Darius Slayton of the Giants (although Darius Slay vs. Darius Slayton is basically worlds colliding, and I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around that).
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The upshot here, however, is that Slay will be vital to the Eagles’ defensive performance in 2020 as he tries to bring some legitimacy that a unit has been torched all too often in recent years. I’d venture to say that he’s the most crucial cog in that machine, thereby making him potentially the second most important player on the squad for this upcoming season, after only the quarterback.
It takes more than one player to make the Eagles’ D a successful unit, as top seasons from Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave up front, as well as from linebackers (checks notes) whoever the Eagles signed/drafted as an afterthought this year, will be important. But a lockdown corner like Slay will do wonders to stifle enemy offenses even if the front seven are merely average. It’s a passing league, and you’ve got to be able to keep opponents from exploiting you through the air. Tasked with facing even a dominant pass rush like the Eagles could boast this year, any decent offense will be able to punch holes in a porous secondary a few times a game. But Darius Slay is here to make sure that doesn’t happen to the Birds.
Do the Eagles have other key players on offense? Absolutely. But Wentz will be driving that bus, so the value of Zach Ertz, Miles Sanders, et al. is tied directly to him. They’re vital, but maybe not as much as the man who will be covering the other team’s top offensive threat on every single down. We’ve all seen the Eagles’ flaws over the last few years that have kept them from being a complete team and true contender. And the more I reflect on the move to bring in Slay, the better the decision looks, as he definitely fills one of the gaping holes we’ve gotten accustomed to seeing.
The Eagles’ secondary did take a hit when they let Malcolm Jenkins leave, and time will tell whether or not that turned out to be a shrewd move or a blunder brought on by cheapness. Conversely, Darius Slay appears to be the exact right move at the exact right time. He figures to make the opposition think twice about sending the ball his way since it won’t be a walk in the park like it so often has been against the Eagles for the past several years. That fact alone shoots Darius Slay up the ranks of importance to this club. Maybe that means the #2 spot behind Wentz, maybe not, but he certainly has the potential to make a compelling argument. It’s something that he’ll have to justify once the games begin.