Darius Slay wasn’t expecting this.
This offseason when the Eagles traded for him, Slay was excited about leaving Detroit and coming to Philadelphia. After all, his team hadn’t made the playoffs since 2016 and he had to suffer through two losing seasons to finish out his time with the Lions, all bottoming out with a 3-12-1 record in 2019.
So he was looking forward to a fresh start with a team that had been to the playoffs three straight years and was only a few years removed from a Super Bowl parade.
The Eagles are clinging to first place in the worst division ever, but this isn’t exactly what Slay probably had in mind.
“That’s a tough one,” Slay said. “Because we got plenty of games left so it could still flip around. That’s all we’re going to do, continue working, come to work and get this change going.”
Slay, 29, has been an All-Pro, he’s been a Pro Bowler, he’s led the league in interceptions and pass-breakups in a season. He’s done a lot of things in his career.
But he’s never won a playoff game. And he’s been there just twice.
This week, several Eagles who have been here for many years have talked about wanting to get back to playing “Eagles football,” which might mean something to them. But Slay is new in the locker room.
On Wednesday, he was asked what Eagles football means to him:
“Just being in the locker room, being around guys who have been here, they got a [reputation] for just being a hard-nosed team and fighting, always fighting,” Slay said. “And me from the outside in, you can watch the guys as they was fighting. … This team always had a lot of fight. And that’s what I expect. I expect us to keep going out and fighting.”
For the most part, Slay has played pretty well this season as the Eagles’ top cornerback. At times he’s traveled with the opponent’s top receiver and has done well in that role. He doesn’t have an interception this season but interceptions can be finicky and it generally seems like teams would rather throw away from him.
That seemed to happen for most of the afternoon last Sunday against the Giants until Darius Slayton caught a 40-yard over-the-shoulder pass on Slay in the fourth quarter that basically iced the game.
“The game against the Giants, three and a half quarters I was making all the plays I need to make, being in the right position I need to (be),” Slay said. “He makes a great play, great catch. Me, mistiming the ball and now I feel like I had a bad game. Because I expect to make those plays … but I make them more than anything. But next play. I got a good thing about being a next play mentality guy. But I was supposed to make that play.”
Yeah, he was. But on the list of the Eagles’ problems, Slay doesn’t even register. He’s one of just a handful of players on that defense you can say has actually played well this season. Has he lived up to expectations? Well, that depends on your expectations, I suppose. But he’s clearly the best cornerback the Eagles have had in some time.
The upcoming stretch for the Eagles isn’t an easy one. Their next five games come against teams with winning records and a combined record of 32-13.
On Wednesday, Carson Wentz gathered the team and told them they needed to fight. Wentz told them he’d give it his all and he said he expected the same from his teammates.
Slay said Wentz will get that effort from him.
“We got seven games left to determine our season,” Slay said. “We know we’re in first place in the (NFC) East but we don’t like the position we’re in with the three wins. We know we’re a better team than our record say. He was just making sure we know that. As a quarterback, he is our leader. He’s going to do right by us and we’re going to do right by him. We gotta just get it going.”
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