PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The first week of the NFL season is here. Though it has been far from the usual offseason, the expectations that come with kickoff of a new year are percolating through Philadelphia. Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman made plenty of moves via free agency, trades and the draft to try and fix the holes in last year’s roster.
One of the biggest moves was acquiring top corner Darius Slay from the Detroit Lions in exchange for a third and fifth-round pick. That move, designed to fix the most glaring weakness on the team in recent years, is one that new NFL on CBS analyst Charles Davis believes will pay dividends immediately.
“It helps greatly when you have a guy that accepts a challenge and can play at the level of Darius Slay. I don’t think he played at that level last year, but I think a lot went into that,” said Davis on a media call with reporters this week. “He had been there for awhile, obviously wasn’t happy with the situation there and now he goes to a place where he’s like, ‘hey they want me, they respect me.’ Typically, we do see players who still have it in the tank and I’m sure that he does, they make a nice little jump that first year somewhere else. That will help greatly.”
While Slay’s performance last season didn’t match the previous productive years he had, he was still more effective than any of the options the Eagles through at opponents. Consider what he did against Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper who has torched the Eagles secondary each of the last two seasons.
Darius Slay shadows in 2019 pic.twitter.com/hJpzo0NWvo
— Jeff Ratcliffe (@JeffRatcliffe) March 19, 2020
That propensity for strong play in man coverage is one of the reasons Pro Football Focus sees Slay returning to his previous heights. But, even if he does, there are still questions on the back end as Davis notes.
“But, it doesn’t solve everything. These guys that they have drafted in these last few years, they had Jalen Mills move back to safety, Rodney McLeod back there,” said Davis. “There’s a lot that goes with it but the way that Jim Schwartz plays, he wants that front four to rush them and he wants that back four to cover.”
Still, Davis notes Slay’s presence and ability to shadow the opposing team’s top dog should give the Birds “a little bit of juice, a little bit of confidence.” Add in free agent Javon Hargrave up front collapsing the pocket with Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson and the defense could make some strides.
But there are questions on the offensive side of the ball for the same reason as last year: injuries. Right guard Brandon Brooks and left tackle Andre Dillard are both out for the year. That leaves lead NFL on CBS analyst Tony Romo with some questions about this team.
“The Eagles are the interesting ones (in the NFC East) because they’re the hardest to predict in my opinion. The other two (Washington, New York) are coming on. Are the Eagles dropping down? Or are they going up?” said Romo. “I’m worried about their offensive line. That’s a huge deal in the National Football League. That’s a very good division and I think you’re going to see that division hasn’t been as talented, the Eagles will go win, the Cowboys are really talented, but the other two haven’t been up in a long time. I think that’s going to be a lot closer than it has been in the past.”
We’ll see just how close on Sunday when the Eagles open up against the Washington Football Team with kickoff at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.