Carson Wentz has never had a training camp like this. No, nothing to do with the pandemic. It has to do with who he's facing every day at practice.
One guy in particular.
Think about the cornerbacks Wentz has faced in practice in his first four years in the NFL.
Nolan Carroll. Leodis McKelvin. Jalen Mills. Ronald Darby. Sidney Jones. Rasul Douglas. Patrick Robinson. Avonte Maddox.
Some adequate. Some not so adequate. None elite.
Now, Wentz finds himself going head-to-head every day with a three-time Pro Bowler in his prime. And it hasn’t taken him long to appreciate Darius Slay’s unique ability.
“Darius Slay obviously jumps out at you,” Wentz said Monday, after the Eagles’ first full-pads practice of the summer. “He’s a difference-maker for that defense and I’m excited that I no longer have to throw him any more interceptions or any more of those things now that he’s on our team.”
Slay actually only picked off Wentz once during his Lions career, but it was a costly one for the Eagles.
The Lions led the Eagles 24-23 with a minute and a half left in their 2016 game at Ford Field when Wentz tried to connect with Nelson Agholor on a deep ball. Slay picked it off on the Lions’ 23-yard-line, and the Lions ran out the clock, handing the Eagles their first loss after a 3-0 start.
That was actually the first interception Wentz ever threw.
The Eagles acquired Slay from the Lions in March in exchange for 3rd- and 5th-round picks, and Monday was the first chance Wentz had to face Slay in a full-pads practice.
The Eagles haven’t had a Pro Bowl cornerback in his prime since Asante Samuel a decade ago.
“He’s different,” Wentz said of Slay. “He’s definitely different out there. He’s quick, he’s smart, he recognizes things. It’s something that I can already see just after a couple practices. He definitely jumps out and he’s going to be a big help to this team.”
Last time the Eagles had a top-10 pass defense was 2012, and that was only because they were always losing so badly that teams just ran the ball on them in the second half.
With Slay as the centerpiece of a rebuilt secondary that also includes safety Will Parks, slot Nickell Robey-Coleman and Jalen Mills in a new role at safety, there’s finally hope for this maligned secondary.
Even if it makes Wentz’s job at practice a little bit harder.