The Philadelphia Eagles were dealt a big blow to start the 2023 season after losing slot cornerback Avonte Maddox. As the Eagles have seen, it's difficult to find someone who can take over at that unqiue position and excel.
The team tried to moving outside corner James Bradberry to the nickel, but that didn't stick. Meanwhile, Mario Goodrich and Kelee Ringo have also gotten opportunities there, but to mixed results.
However, Philadelphia may have finally found its solution in Week 5.
The Los Angeles Rams' offense got off to a blazing start on Sunday thanks to the duo of Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp. Lining up in the slot, Kupp took advantage of the Ringo and Goodrich to rack up a whopping five receptions and 56 yards on just the first drive, setting up a Los Angeles touchdown.
After it was clear this was a major mismatch, defensive coordinator Sean Desai opted to have lead cornerback Darius Slay move into the slot to cover Kupp. He struggled to keep up with the All-Pro as well, though, as Kupp broke off a 39-yard gain in the second quarter against him that led to the Rams' second TD.
In the second half is when things started to change, and that's because of Bradley Roby. The veteran, who was signed only earlier in the week as another potential depth option, heard his number called to take on the nickel assignment and shined. He held Stafford to just 2-of-4 passing for -4 yards when he was in coverage.
With Roby finally providing decent coverage out of the slot, LA suddenly had much more difficult airing it out in the second half. In fact, the Rams were blanked over the last two periods, as their score with 32 seconds left in the Q2 was the last points they put on the board all day.
Roby's insertion into the lineup for the final two quarters was a massive turning point in a game where there was upset potential brewing. His ability to keep Kupp and co. quiet from that key spot made a world of a difference to the entire defense, which looked much improved in the second half.
It's a one-game sample size, but Roby's performance could indicate he's the piece this unit has been missing. The fact he made such a noticeable difference in less than a full week reflects even better on him as well considering how little time he had to actually prepare.
At the very least, Philadelphia has found its starting slot corner for Week 6. Roby more than proved he's worthy of taking on that role, and it'd be no surprise if he turns out to be even better with regular prep time.
If Roby continues to play like this and wins this job for the rest of the season, that suddenly fortifies a secondary that's struggled due to its health issues. It also makes the entire defense better, as the talented pass rush should have more opportunities to wreck games if they have finally have proper coverage behind them.
Roby's Week 5 effort is absolutely worth getting excited over. The vet being an unexpected surprise could be the shot in the arm this seconday has desperately needed since losing Maddox.
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