Eagles 2022 season: Darius Slay on list of most important players

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Slay claims prime position on list of most important Eagles originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2022 season.

25. Quez Watkins
24. Gardner Minshew
23. T.J. Edwards
22. Marcus Epps
21. Landon Dickerson
20. Jake Elliott
19. Brandon Graham
18. Jordan Davis
17. Kyzir White
16. Avonte Maddox 
15. Nakobe Dean
14. Fletcher Cox
13. James Bradberry
12. Miles Sanders
11. Josh Sweat
10. DeVonta Smith
9. Dallas Goedert
8. Javon Hargrave
7. Jordan Mailata
6. Darius Slay

In his second season with the Eagles, Darius Slay reminded everyone why his nickname is Big Play Slay.

The veteran in his ninth NFL season had a tremendous 2021 season for the Eagles. He started 16 games, had 3 interceptions, scored three total touchdowns and had nine pass breakups. And he did it all as a true CB1 who often flipped sides of the field to follow the opposition’s best receiver. (He even played a couple snaps on offense.)

Slay, who turned 31 in January, made his fourth Pro Bowl team in 2021. He shockingly received just one All-Pro vote, which means he didn’t even make the second team. Slay thought that was a snub and he has a strong case.

During last season, Slay talked about his opinion that he was still an underrated cornerback in the NFL.

“Yeah, that’s for sure,” Slay said in late October. “I feel like a lot of stuff comes with popularity, who the media likes the most, who the media talks about the most. But if you look at my film, I’ve been doing in and out, I’ve been doing everything I need to do. I’ve been in a defense where man was every play, no help, doing what I had to do, locking up guys. Being in a zone defense and man defense, getting all the picks.

“I’ve done everything that a corner needs to do and I’ve been doing it at a long time. A lot of coaches pay attention to it. I get a lot of respect after the games when I go to coaches, talk to them. It’s the outworld, the fans, the media that just don’t know what’s going on because I’m not on TV a lot.”

According to ProFootballFocus, Slay was the fourth-best cornerback in the NFL last season behind Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Terrell and Kendall Fuller. Heck, PFF had Slay graded higher last year than his eight-INT All-Pro season back in 2017.

Slay is entering his 10th NFL season in 2022 and it’s fair to wonder if and when we might see a drop-off in his level of play. But he was so strong last season, after somewhat of a down year in 2020, that the Eagles have to be expecting him to play very well again this season.

And they’re going to need it. Sure, the Eagles added James Bradberry as their CB2 and that’s a nice upgrade over Steven Nelson, who himself was solid last season. But Slay is still the top dog and he’ll probably still be expected to line up against the best receivers in the NFL and shut them down.

It’ll be fascinating to see if Slay travels as much as he did before Bradberry, though. In any case, Slay is the top cornerback on a really good trio that also includes Bradberry and nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox. Maddox came in at No. 16 on this list and Bradberry No. 13.

Aside from providing the Eagles with nonstop comic relief, Slay has also been giving them the best cornerback play the Eagles have had in a decade since Asante Samuel was still at his peak.

The Eagles need that from him again in 2022.

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