Eagles

The 2 Ronald Darby plays more impressive than his INT

Eagles

Ronald Darby made what was perhaps the biggest play of Sunday's game when he picked off a pass with 57 seconds left in regulation against the Raiders. 

The Eagles drove down the field to win the game, so the interception was huge. 

It just wasn't what impressed defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz most about Darby's game on Christmas night. He was more impressed with Darby's plays on two wide receiver screens. 

"If he doesn't play those plays as well as he played, we might give up touchdowns on both of those," Schwartz said. "That probably went below the radar a little bit because he intercepted that ball at the end and gave us a chance to win, but those plays were every bit as important in keeping that score down and keeping us in the game."

Upon his arrival to Philly, Darby said he was physical in the run game and as a tackler when needed. He's been proving that since returning from his dislocated ankle several weeks ago. 

"I just went out there and played fast, really," Darby said Wednesday. "We saw it on film that they do that a few times. I just played it perfect." 

Let's take a look at both of the plays: 

 

This is the Raiders' first offensive play of the second quarter. The score is still 7-0 Eagles. Darby (circled) is on the bottom of the screen with off coverage against Cordarrelle Patterson, who hasn't had a great NFL career but can still absolutely fly. The Eagles are in nickel with a single high safety. That's important to remember because if the screen game works and gets past the first level, there's just one guy to beat. 

Just after the snap, the screen is on. Rookie left tackle David Sharpe lets Derek Barnett come free at Derek Carr as he starts to take off to get a block downfield. Patterson uses that cushion from Darby and gets ready to catch the quick pass. 

This play could have been really dangerous. The Raiders are about to have the ball in a speedy receiver's hands with an offensive lineman barreling down on the closest tackler and then just one guy to beat. 


But Darby baits Sharpe outside and is then able to use his quickness to cut back inside. His move leaves Sharpe off balance and falling to the ground. Darby then finishes the play and gets Patterson on the ground after a seven-yard gain, saving what might have gone for a long touchdown. That advantage in quickness made up for the 150-pound (!) size difference between the two players. 

"You just gotta know what you're going to do right away," Darby said about going against an offensive lineman. "You can't be indecisive, then you mess up." 

 

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This next play comes with 12:18 left in the fourth quarter. Darby (circled) is on the bottom of the screen in man coverage against Amari Cooper, the Raiders' most dangerous receiver. 

The Raiders show what looks like a pitch play to the right, but they're just setting up the wide receiver screen to the other side. Again, Sharpe leaves his man free to get out in front and block Darby. Cooper is about to cut back and make the catch. 

Just before the catch, you can see how the screen is set up. The Raiders will have Sharpe take Darby out of the play and then, just like the last time, Cooper has one man to beat to the end zone. But that's only if things work out perfectly. Things need to be perfect on screens. 

Sharpe simply overruns on his block. He gets too far toward the side of the field and Darby is just going to use his quickness to get inside and make the tackle before Cooper breaks downfield with a ton of room ahead of him. 

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So sure, Darby's interception was huge, but don't forget about these plays either. For a team that prides itself on its corners being able to tackle, Darby has seemingly fit the mold. There are plenty of cover guys in the league who avoid contact all the time. It appears the Eagles might have a guy who can do both.