One of the Eagles’ biggest moves this offseason was a trade and contract extension for CB Darius Slay from Detroit. Slay spoke to the media on Thursday and talked about his history with the organization, what Fletcher Cox told him to expect from the Philly culture, and what makes him so good at man coverage.
Slay was asked about nabbing Carson Wentz’s first career interception, and admitted that he plans on having the quarterback sign the ball when they finally get together. There’s no hard feelings though, Wentz did reach out congratulating Slay on joining the team.
Here’s what the cornerback had to say:
On his history with the Eagles
Slay said that he heard the rumors last year at the trade deadline that the Eagles were interested, but the Lions GM told him directly that they weren’t going to make a move. He didn’t pay much attention to it after that.
He did talk about Philly being interested in him when he was coming out of college, and he spoke to them the night before the draft. Despite their interest, the Eagles took Zach Ertz and Slay ended up in Detroit.
On Jim Schwartz and the Eagles defense
Slay said that he has kept up with Schwartz in the years since they were together in Detroit, but not a ton.
He remembers Schwartz having a very attacking defense — especially with his front four — and set edges to get to the quarterback, and the Eagles’ DC wants a secondary that can take the ball away.
Schwartz doesn’t often have corners play man, and it was alluded that it was due to a lack of talent from the players already on the roster. Slay defended the corners that Schwartz has had in Philadelphia, and said that sometimes guys just like to stick to a side rather than stick a specific player, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t guys on the roster that could stay with a receiver.
Slay was asked about his success in man to man coverage, and he noted that he’s persistent, can switch up his technique and competes every play. He also said he’s “not cocky, just a confident guy,” and he plays football because it’s fun and just loves ball.
The new CB said he hasn’t watched a ton of film of his other new position-mates in Philly, but knows there’s a lot of leadership within the group and thinks it’ll be a very effective secondary.
On the Eagles’ culture
“From the top down, from the fans to the ownership, everybody is part of the brotherhood.”
Slay said that he talked to Fletcher Cox the night before the trade went down, and Cox told him nothing but positive things. He explained that all the teammates are like brothers, the fans will love you when you’re doing well (but will tell him when he’s not), and that the owners are honest and upfront about things.
Slay and Cox overlapped at Mississippi State and have known each other since high school.
“I’m looking forward to sharing a field with him once again.”
The CB also noted that the Eagles have consistently been going to the playoffs — something he didn’t do in Detroit — so he looks forward to competing into the postseason.
“New start for me, new adventure, and I’m willing to do whatever to help the team win.”
On his 2019 season
There’s been a lot of opinions out there about Slay’s productivity last season, but he doesn’t necessarily agree that it wasn’t that good.
“I think I had a great year, in my opinion.”
He explained that he wasn’t targeted as much last season, so his interception numbers were low, but he played well enough to get Pro Bowl nods three years in a row. Slay also noted that the fans with those opinion are looking at him from a numbers standpoint rather than the film — so he doesn’t think he had a down year in 2019.
On his new jersey number
He talked a bit about why he’s choosing to honor Kobe Bryant with his new number in Philly, and spoke about the time that he met the basketball legend.
“I was surprised he even knew me.”
Bryant walked through all the reporters to get to the cornerback and said that he loved Slay’s play.
Slay explained that he wanted to honor Bryant because he was a true competitor and was always working on his craft. He also believes in getting out of the work you put in, and Slay said he’s always working on his technique and studying film.
Additionally, Slay said that he really respected that Bryant would always go to other professionals for advice. When he was compared to Michael Jordan, he would actually go to Jordan and get advice on things on and off the court. Slay emulates that same ideology and says he loves all corners. He doesn’t care who might be considered better than another, and will ask other about certain plays or receivers — anyone who can give him more information.
On an odd offseason schedule
Slay noted that he puts a lot of work in about a month ahead of training camp to be ready for conditioning tests, etc... but with gyms closed right now because of COVID-19, that’ll be tough. He admitted that it will be a challenge to build chemistry with his teammates on a limited offseason, especially with everyone miles apart.
He also mentioned the possibility that the start of the season is pushed back, because if training camp is postponed, they’d have almost immediate turnaround from camp to games. But, he noted that they are professionals, and will just have to put in extra work as needed to accommodate the unique situation.
On NFC East competition
Slay was asked about two receivers he should see a lot of this upcoming season, Amari Cooper and Terry McLaurin.
He explained Cooper was tough, but he got the upper hand because he locked in more knowing what type of receiver he is. Slay had watched a ton of film on Cooper and also had familiarity thanks to a joint practice when the WR was still in Oakland.
Slay didn’t hesitate to say that McLaurin kind of surprised him last season. The rookie was a lot faster than he appeared on film.
“He’s a true competitor,” Slay lauded. “The kid is very, very fast. He was one of my hardest challenges last year.”