Darius Slay has been in the NFL for nine seasons and before this year had already been a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro.
But 2021 might be his best season yet.
And on Wednesday, the Eagles’ best cornerback of the last decade heaped praise on his position coach Dennard Wilson.
“I’m not going to sit here and play around,” Slay said. ”Dennard, man, he’s been a great coach. He helped me elevate my game to a whole ‘nother level.”
Wilson, 39, has been coaching in the NFL since 2012 but joined the Eagles this offseason to take over as the defensive backs coach under defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. And his players seem to love him.
Earlier this season, the Eagles’ defense as a whole was struggling and the passing stats against them didn’t look good. But it seems like that had more to do with scheme and opponent than it did with the players in the secondary.
Because think about it: Slay is having a huge season. Avonte Maddox is playing the best football of his career. Steve Nelson has been solid as the CB2. The evolving three-man safety rotation between Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps has been strong. Every time we’ve seen rookie Zech McPhearson get playing time he’s held up.
And the Eagles have loaded up their roster with young developmental cornerbacks, entrusting Wilson to bring them along.
So Slay just has one question: Why isn’t this guy a defensive coordinator?
“He ain’t never steered me wrong, not once yet,” Slay said. “Like I said, I’m just surprised he’s been in the game 15 years and not had a DC job because he’s a smart dude. And he played in this league before so I won’t be surprised if sooner or later he has one of them jobs.”
As a player, Wilson back in 2004 spent some time with Washington after he went undrafted out of Maryland. He went to high school at DeMatha Catholic, where he eventually coached McLeod. So those two go way back.
Ever since then, Wilson has been working his way up the ranks. He previously coached defensive backs with the Rams and Jets.
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Why is Slay surprised Wilson isn’t a DC yet?
“Because of the way he can game plan. He’s smart,” Slay said. “Because everything he’s been telling me, him, [Gannon] and the whole staff has been telling me, it’s been true on the field every time. Even with my film study I do myself, them guys have been right.”
Earlier this week, head coach Nick Sirianni was asked about how he’d handle outside interest in his coaches and he said he wants his staff to focus on the job at hand first. But he also seems like the type of boss who wants to see his coaches climb the NFL ladder.
During another COVID season, the Eagles have to have contingency plans for everything. A week ago, when Sirianni was in danger of missing a game, the Eagles had a plan. And you can bet that they have a plan if something ever happened to Gannon and he wasn’t available.
It would make a lot of sense if Wilson is the next guy up to call defensive plays. Maybe before long, he’ll have his own defense to run.