Eagles

How much will Jim Schwartz let Darius Slay travel with top WRs? 

How much will Jim Schwartz let Darius Slay travel with top WRs? 

Darius Slay better pack his bags. It sounds like he’ll be doing a lot of traveling this season. 

At least that seems to be the plan. 

On a Zoom call with reporters Friday morning, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz confirmed that the Eagles will use their new top corner to match up against top receivers all over the field (travel) this season. He just didn’t say how much. 

So, I don't know that it's going to be a 100 percent, all-the-time thing,” Schwartz said. “Maybe it's a particular game. Maybe it's 50 percent of the games. Maybe it's 75 percent of the games that Slay is matching a particular receiver, but you will see that from our defense. 

"And in order to do that, it's not just on Slay to know inside and outside, which we have a very good comfort level with and feel like he can do that. But now it's going to put all of your corners, your safeties and your nickels have to be just a little bit more into, they have to be more multi-dimensional. If Slay lines up at the nickel, the nickel needs to be able to line up at the outside corner and you need to be able to play man, and zone, and blitz from that same look.

That second part is a really good point from the defensive coordinator and it’s one of the reasons the Eagles have kept their corners lining up at the same positions the last four years. The Eagles under Schwartz have kept their left corner on the left side, their right on the right and their nickel in the slot. It simplified things and also helped them mask coverage. 

But the other — and more obvious — reason they haven’t used a cornerback to travel is because they didn’t have a cornerback worthy of that responsibility. They do now after trading for Slay this offseason. 

“He has done a lot of that in the past, and that won't be anything new for him, and I'm really excited to have him,” Schwartz said. “I think it's going to add a different dimension to our secondary."

And the idea of keeping Slay on Amari Cooper or DeAndre Hopkins for an entire game is worth the extra stress it might put on a defense, forcing other guys to play out of position or working harder to disguise coverages. 

Take a look at where Slay lined up the last three seasons with the Lions, his three Pro Bowl years: 

Left cornerback: 1,346 (51.5%) 
Right cornerback: 980 (37.5%) 
Nickel cornerback: 287 (11%) 

And now take a look at his success against the top receivers in the league in 2019, per ProFootballFocus: 

Larry Fitzgerald: 1 target, 0 catches 
Keenan Allen: 11 targets, 6 catches, 81 yards, 1 INT, 1 PBU
Stefon Diggs (2 games): 8 target, 6 catch, 114 yards, 1 PBU
Adam Thielen: 2 targets, 1 catch, 25 yards, 1 TD
Allen Robinson (2 games): 9 targets, 5 catch, 74 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT 
Amari Cooper: 6 targets, 3 catches, 38 yards, 2 PBU 
Terry McLaurin: 10 targets, 3 catches, 42 yards, 1 PBU 
Chris Godwin: 2 targets, 1 catch, 6 yards
Davante Adams: 5 targets, 4 catches, 63 yards

“Oh, I love the challenge,” Slay said on a conference call earlier this offseason. “I kind of ask for it a lot because of the fact that I want the game on me and I want to help win the game. If the best route to go about it is me traveling with a guy, then I’ll do it.”

The Eagles will prepare for Slay to travel during their upcoming training camp practices. Schwartz said they’ll probably just let him pick a receiver from the offensive huddle and follow him around the field for that series. With how Doug Pederson uses his receivers all over the field that will also allow Slay to move and for the corresponding moves from the other corners too. 

Eventually, when the season starts, it’ll be a week-by-week decision whether or not Slay matches up against the opponent’s top receiver. 

Something tells me Schwartz won’t be as open to talking about it then. 

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Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert gets a very bold 2020 prediction from PFF

Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert gets a very bold 2020 prediction from PFF

Pro Football Focus released its ranking of the 15 best tight ends in the NFL on Wednesday, and somehow the decision to place Rob Gronkowski at No. 3 is only the second-boldest move on the list.

The boldest? Placing Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert at No. 6 in the league - and ahead of Zach Ertz.

Wait, what?

Eagles fans know the Birds probably have the league's best tight end duo, and 2020 should be a big year for Goedert. But placing the third-year tight end in front of Ertz, a perennial Pro Bowler coming off the second-best season of his career? Hmm.

Let's go to the list for some explanation:

6. DALLAS GOEDERT

The best tight end on the Eagles’ roster heading into 2020 is not Zach Ertz. Despite the receiving totals pointing pretty clearly to Ertz being the better player in Philadelphia, it’s actually Goedert who graded out as the better receiver in 2019. Goedert’s size and athleticism make him dangerous in one-on-one situations, evident in his receiving grade against single coverage that ranked near the top of the list this past season.

[...]

He just needs more opportunities in a featured role, because the talent is there.

7. ZACH ERTZ

Many would rank Ertz as high as third on this list, so I’ll start this out by explaining a little bit why he comes in at just seventh. Primarily, he isn’t nearly as dynamic as some of these other guys with the ball in his hands.

Sandwiched between Antonio Gates (36 years old at the start of this stretch) and Jason Witten (34 years old) is not where you want to be as one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL in your prime.

It's hard to say these evaluations are far off. I'd venture to guess most Eagles fans, and most football observers, expect Goedert to overtake Ertz as the team's TE1 at some point in the next few years. Goedert is more athletic than Ertz, he's already a well-rounded player, and Ertz isn't getting any younger.

And the criticisms of Ertz - his relative lack of game-breaking athleticism compared to a George Kittle or Travis Kelce, and his constant inability to break tackles - hold true, as they have for years.

But predicting Goedert moving ahead of Ertz this year? That's gutsy! 

I think a lot of folks missed Goedert's sneakily productive season in 2019 - 58 catches, 607 yards, and five touchdowns - and we'll likely see Goedert play even more in 2020. His targets (87) didn't match Ertz's receptions (88) last year, so this might feel like a reach for a one-year change. But the role switch for TE1 and TE2 also might be closer than we think.

And if Goedert does take a big leap in 2020, that might make Howie Roseman think twice about extending Zach Ertz. The veteran tight end, possibly the best in franchise history, said this week he wants to remain an Eagle forever

If Goedert overtakes Ertz in productivity this year, as PFF thinks will happen, Ertz might have to take a discount to stick around in midnight green when his contract is up after the 2021 season.

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Eagle Eye podcast: A closer look at DE after addition of Vinny Curry

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Eagle Eye podcast: A closer look at DE after addition of Vinny Curry

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Barrett Brooks react to the addition of Vinny Curry and what it means for the entire defensive end position. 

What about guys like Shareef Miller, Genard Avery and Joe Ostman? 

Jatavis Brown abruptly retired this weekend, which leaves the Eagles really light at the linebacker positions. The guys take a closer look. Jason Kelce and Jason Peters are forming a really interesting duo on the Eagles’ line. 

And Nate Gerry and Lane Johnson are off the Reserve/COVID-19 list. 

  • (2:06) — What the return of Vinny Curry means for Shareef Miller.
  • (16:01) — Jatavis Brown abruptly retires.
  • (25:53) — Eagles lack talented players under 25-years-old.
  • (33:16) — Jason Kelce is learning from Jason Peters.

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 
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Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles