Eagles: Darius Slay may be having the best season of his career

The Philadelphia Eagles haven’t had a playmaking corner in a very long time. You’d have to go back all the way to 2010 to find the last Eagles CB to make a Pro Bowl, Asante Samuel.

For the first time in over a decade, the Eagles finally have Pro Bowl, arguably All-Pro, caliber play at the cornerback position with Darius Slay.

Slay has had some outstanding seasons over his nine-year career. He made three straight Pro Bowls from 2017-’19 and earned a first-team All-Pro selection in 2017, tallying eight interceptions that season. While eight interceptions in a single season is undoubtedly impressive and it’s unlikely he’ll reach that mark this year, 2021 could very well be his finest season to date.

At 30 years old, Slay is peaking in the big play department. He’s found the end zone three times in the past four games after only scoring one touchdown in his first eight seasons. On Sunday, he joined Eric Allen as the only Eagles defender to ever score at least three touchdowns in a season. And on the year, he has just as many touchdowns as A.J. Brown, George Kittle, A.J. Green, and Jaylen Waddle.

Here’s one last stat: since Week 8, Slay has just as many touchdowns (three) as his former team, the Detroit Lions, during that span.

Fans have often criticized Jonathan Gannon’s zone coverage scheme, but this is the type of system that Slay has excelled in throughout his career. Playing in predominately man coverage defenses over the past few seasons, Slay’s playmaking ability was hindered a bit. He still did well coverage wise, limiting receivers on the stat sheet, but he wasn’t able to create as many big plays in single coverage. Which is typically the case with any corner.

This past Sunday was another example of just how dominant Slay can be when playing in a zone coverage system. He posted his best Pro Football Focus coverage grade of his career, finishing the day with a 94.0 mark. And he earned PFF’s defensive player of the week honors.

Slay’s coverage grade for the season sits at 83.1, which is the fourth-highest mark out of 117 qualifying corners. His overall defensive grade (80.8) ranks fifth-highest.

At the very least, Slay seems primed to reach his second All-Pro team in 2021. Statistically speaking, it’s fair to point to 2017 as his best season. But his defensive impact has been much more impressive in 2021. And at 30 years old, he’s still clearly in the prime years of his career.

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