For the second time in as many weeks, Jim Schwartz went to bat for his No. 1 cornerback.
Darius Slay is in the midst of a five-game gauntlet in which he’ll be matched up against one of the best receivers in the NFL each week, and the early results aren’t promising. During the team’s 30-16 loss Sunday to the Packers, Slay’s primary matchup, Davante Adams, finished with 12 catches, 121 yards, and two touchdowns.
Slay entered the game fresh off giving up 10 catches for 177 yards to Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf in a losing effort and was dealing with a calf injury during the week before the trip to Lambeau Field. He also left Sunday’s game early because of a knee injury and is considered day-to-day this week.
Asked about Slay’s play, Schwartz gave him credit for battling through injuries before eventually allowing undrafted rookie Michael Jacquet to relieve him.
“I was very appreciative of Slay,” the defensive coordinator said. “He wasn’t 100% coming into the game, went out and played. Probably the biggest thing, the play — I mean, he gave up his last completion, I saw him limping on that play and I was trying to get Jacquet in there for him and trying to get Slay to go down and just like, ‘Look, you’re hurt. Let the officials take you out of the game.’ He has so much pride as a player that he didn’t want to do that.”
Slay was targeted eight times while matched up with Adams and gave up seven catches for 109 yards and two scores. In the last two weeks combined, Slay has allowed 16 catches for 269 yards, albeit against two of the most dominant wideouts in the NFL.
This weekend won’t be much easier, assuming Slay is able to play in the Eagles’ home matchup against New Orleans on Sunday. The Saints’ Michael Thomas, one of the best volume receivers in the league, has surpassed 100 receiving yards in two of his last three games after missing most of the first half of the year with injuries.
The Eagles traded third- and fifth-round picks to the Detroit Lions for Slay in the offseason, made him the fourth-highest-paid cornerback in the league, and have employed a man-coverage-heavy scheme this year to complement his willingness to match up against top wideouts. But he’s struggled lately.
Asked if he expected Slay to do better in his matchups, Schwartz pointed out the challenge of Slay’s assignments.
“One-on-one defense is hard to do in the NFL, particularly with some of the marquee wide receivers, marquee quarterbacks,” Schwartz said. “Sometimes, holding your own is a win when there is a lot of spotlight on you and stuff like that.”
Still, Schwartz conceded, Slay could play better.
“I think that he’d probably be the first person to say that he hasn’t played his best football these last two games, but that’s not going to change the way we handle him,” Schwartz said. “That is not going to change the plan for him. Like any other player, we just got to get out of that and get him winning those matchups.
“I have every confidence that he will. He’s a veteran player. He has a long track record. You can’t show me a corner in the NFL that hasn’t had a bad game or two regardless of what their level is.”