He calls himself Darius “Big Play” Slay.
He has been that exactly in this up-and-down season that the Eagles are navigating themselves through. With four games left in this 2021 season, if Big Play can add a few more
Big Plays the Birds might find themselves in the postseason and Slay might play in only his third post season game ever.
Perhaps even win a postseason game.
I first met Slay at the Pro Bowl in Orlando after the 2019 season, his last in Detroit.
It was his third straight pro bowl appearance after being named First Team all-pro in 2017 when he lead the NFL in both interceptions (8) and passes defensed (26).
The kind of stats that travel far and are easily recognized for a long time.
I was filming my NFLNETWORK Show, Film Sessions in Orlando and we invited Slay to be a guest. The show, hosted by myself and Ron Jaworski, really goes inside the film room and we let the players teach us the game through their eyes.
Players love it because it's their show and they get to tell us and the audience how they see and prepare for the game.
In preparation for the show I went back through the 2019 season and most of 2018 and 2017 to find plays that I thought he would enjoy discussing.. We finished with 25-30 plays after watching hundreds.
But what I noticed when whittling the plays down to the film sessions content was two things: One he loved to play man-to-man coverage and he loved to travel with the opposition's best wide receiver.
In one particular matchup in week two of the 2019 season, he was matched up with Keenan Allen of the LA Chargers.
Phillip Rivers must have targeted Allen no less than 16 times in that game. Allen was really on and caught a bunch of passes against Slay. No trash talking. No pushing and shoving. Just great competition and great respect and some awesome theater.
The game was tight. The Lions held a slim 13-10 lead with two minutes left in the game. Allen caught a few passes to get the Chargers into scoring range; a TD would win the game.
But in the end on a pass to Allen in the end zone, Slay jumped up and intercepted the ball in the end zone to preserve the victory. In the end, Slay was the big winner.
In further preparation I watched Slay go up against Davante Adams 2X per year with the Packers.
More epic moments. Same with Adam Thielen in Minnesota.
So when Slay walked into the film room in January of 2020, I was fully prepared. Slay met us with a big smile, a firm handshake, and a great big personality that filled up the room.
He made our job easy that afternoon. He loves football, loves talking about football, respects the game and those he must cover and is an awesome teammate. 90 minutes with Slay and you come away with a new friend and a real credit to our profession.
So when the Eagles went out in the Spring of 2020 and signed him to a big free agent contract, I couldn't have been more excited for Slay or for the fans of Philly.
And then the 2020 season, amidst Covid and the rigors of trying to play during a pandemic and the season went awry rather early. There were little dividends on the Slay signing in 2021.
The Eagles were limping along in the first month of 2021 with a soft 1-3 record and going nowhere fast.
The secondary was stuck in soft zones in week four trying to defend the Chiefs passing attack and ended up allowing the Chiefs to do whatever they wanted.
Slay was nowhere near his element. In week five, I was in Charlotte to announce the 1-3 Eagles against the Panthers 3-1 team coming off a tough loss to the Cowboys.
That's the afternoon Sam Darnold met Slay. Big Play intercepted two that day to spark the Birds to a huge comeback win and things began to change.
Against his former team he picked up a fumble and turned it into a touchdown to route the Lions 44-6. two weeks later he would do the same thing against the Broncos to help in that convincing 30-13 win.
The following week he took an Interception back for a touchdown against the Saints to help them to their fifth victory.
Slay is still playing lots of zone and he isn't traveling with the other teams best wide receiver but he does fit in with a very veteran secondary that has seen a lot and a group that seems to communicate really well on the field.
The Eagles defense is reasonably healthy and coming off a bye getting ready for the final month of games, I feel like this secondary has to be the playmakers for this team to fight their way into this postseason. Nobody has scored 30 on them in the last 6 games
What the Birds really need is for Darius “Big Play” Slay to live up to his name in the final month.
He feels good and I think certain players have that knack to always be looking and always be lurking for the ball. I, for one, am happy that Slay has found a home with the Eagles.
And Eagle fans should be grateful for the gifts that Slay has given and will continue to give.
Happy Holidays Everybody! *