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Eagles All-22 Film Review: What makes Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox so good

NFL: NOV 14 Eagles at Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There is still time for one final player review before we get into actual football! This offseason, I have written film reviews on every single Eagles draft pick, free agent signing as well as a number of other players. I appreciate all the comments and everyone who has checked them out every week. I am going to do a couple of in-depth season previews on offense and defense as well as preseason reviews before week 1 but I wanted to do one final quick film room, breaking down what made Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay so good this past year. Let’s get to it!

Stats

All stats taken from PFF and only includes linebackers with 20% of the snaps which is 129 total.

Darius Slay

Strengths

+ Really good understanding of depth in zone coverage. Will bait quarterbacks into taking the cover 2 hole shot but won’t give them much room. Will explode forward and deal with shorter throws. Good understanding of situational football.

+ Has very good ‘sticky’ man to man coverage traits. Particularly excels in off coverage where he is good at exploding towards the football. Is a silky athlete with very fluid hips who can redirect quickly.

+ One of the best at not giving up big plays. Doesn’t jump on double routes and has a great understanding of down and distance.

+ One of the best in zone coverage in the league. Rarely voids his zone or gets confused by the offense and shows a great understanding of opposing route concepts.

+ Has the ability to line up and cover the opposing offenses number 1 receiver on a weekly basis. You know he will lose from time to time, as all cornerbacks do, but he won’t lose you the game by getting beaten badly consistently.

Weaknesses

- Not really blaming Slay for this as I am almost certain it is what Gannon wants from his cornerbacks, but he was too passive at times last year and give up easy short completions.

- Been a strict outside corner pretty much his whole career, especially with the Eagles. We have rarely seen him travel with top receivers when they move him inside.

- Rarely gets beat down the field, but he can be beaten at the catch point. Not as good as the top cornerbacks in the league when the ball is in the air.

- Can get overmatched physically by bigger receivers. Got worked by Mike Evans in the playoffs a little bit.

Overall

Slay was good in 2020, but he was excellent in 2021. The numbers show a top 5/10 cornerback and I think the tape absolutely backs that up. Despite many complaints from fans about Gannon’s system, it suits Slay perfectly as he is better in zone coverage and is also better in off man coverage, as he doesn’t have the size or physicality to be a top press man corner. He’s not perfect and can get beaten at the catch point by more physical receivers but he is as good as a number 1 cornerback as the Eagles have had for a long, long time and I think he should have another excellent year as part of a really talented secondary.


Avonte Maddox

Strengths

+ Has the speed to carry vertical routes down the field. Doesn’t give up a lot of explosive plays. Highlighted by his extremely low yards per reception.

Has shown the ability to do this on the outside as well as the slot too in previous years

+ Really fluid and loose hips. Perfect for a slot corner who has to deal with more quick in/out breaking routes. Not afraid to play tight man coverage on receivers and is physical at the catch point too.

+ Very physical and a willing tackler. Gets downhill in a hurry and can blow up bubble screens, outside runs etc. Will fight through wide receiver blocks.

+ Comfortable at rotating late and playing deep safety, we saw this a lot more towards the end of last season.

Weaknesses

- Undersized and struggles with bigger more physical wide receivers. His body type suits quicker, small receivers.

- Short arms makes it difficult for him to press receivers at the line of scrimmage. Can get beat instantly at the snap at times because of this.

- Gave up a lot of underneath catches last year. As with Slay, this is a product of playing under Jonathan Gannon so I wouldn’t blame him for it but I think you have to mention it when discussing his game.

- Limited to a role in the slot. Has shown he can play outside in the past but struggled mainly as an outside cornerback.

Overall

I was so pleased to see Avonte Maddox bounce back this year, after criminally being used as an outside cornerback last year. Yes, he can do a job on the outside, but his skillset fits the slot perfectly and I thought he had a really good year last year and was one of the top slot cornerbacks in the NFL. The numbers aren’t too pretty but the Eagles played a lot of passive coverage and Maddox was asked to give up short receptions and then close and tackle fast. He did this perfectly and is one of the most physical cornerbacks despite his size. I can barely think of an explosive play that he gave up last year and to only give up 7.8 yards per reception, highlights how impressive he was.


Final Thoughts

Like many Eagles fans, I have struggled to watch the Eagles cornerbacks the past decade and have longed for a top secondary. The Eagles may have some question marks at safety still, but a cornerback trio of Slay, Bradberry and Maddox should be one of the best in the league. If you missed my article on Bradberry, I recommend reading it here.

Gannon may not be everyone’s favorite defensive coordinator, but there is no doubt the Eagles have given him a secondary that fits what he wants to do. Both Bradberry and Slay excel in zone coverage and I think the Eagles to play a lot of zone coverage next year which will suit both of them. I am a little worried the Eagles will be a bit too passive, but I am hoping the Eagles will be more multiple in their coverages from the very start this year. An underrated part of the Slay, Bradberry and Maddox trio is how experienced they all are at this point. They should be able to handle multiple coverages, late rotations and different game plans each week.

I am extremely excited to watch what Gannon does with this defense and secondary moving forward and I will be breaking down exactly what I expect to see over the next few weeks.