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May 23, 2024

Darius Slay says he doesn't have many NFL years remaining, is ready to lead young cornerbacks into the future

Darius Slay, 33, is a three-time Pro Bowler as an Eagle, but knows his time in the NFL won't last forever. He wants the team's two highly touted rookie cornerbacks to be ready to "eat" once he's done with football.

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Darius Slay Kelly Green Uniform Bill Streicher/for PhillyVoice

Darius Slay wants to teach Quinyon Mitchell, Cooper DeJean and the Eagles' young cornerbacks "how to be a pro."

The Eagles' cornerback depth chart received a complete refresh last month. The Birds nabbed Toledo corner Quinyon Mitchell in the first round of the NFL Draft. On Day 2 of the draft, the Eagles selected do-it-all-defensive back Cooper DeJean, who was viewed as a first-round talent in his own right.

Even with those fresh faces and perhaps even with someone like James Bradberry moving on this summer, Darius Slay remains the team's constant and CB1.

Slay, entering his fifth season in Philadelphia, is coming off three consecutive Pro Bowl nods. The chairs are moving around him and he sees what's coming with this youth movement. How many years does Slay, 33, still have in him as an NFL corner?

"Aw, s**t. Not too many," Slay said when asked about it after Eagles practice on Wednesday. "I'm gonna let these young guys eat. That's what I'm here for, to make sure those guys get there and when my time is up, it's up. I'm ready to be a full-time dad, stuff like that. I got a daughter running track, I'm ready, got my track hat on and I'm trying to get her into tennis too, tennis dad and all kinds of great stuff."

Even with the self-awareness that comes with creeping into your mid-30s in the NFL, a young man's game, Slay said he's doing great physically. 

"I honestly feel like I'm 25 again."

Slay added that watching Mitchell and DeJean work this spring reminded him of his days being a young pro. That young pro turned into a star and he's already seeing big-time potential in the two rookies.

"Quick dude that's got a quick twitch," Slay said regarding Mitchell. "I love his off-man [coverage], I'm real good at off-man when I do. I watched his tape in college... I'm looking forward to helping him because I see a great talent in him, looking forward to seeing him make a lot of plays."

It's a familiar refrain for DeJean, too.

"Very athletic," Slay said about his early impressions of the Iowa corner. "As you can see, a guy who's versatile. He's everywhere. Both of them right now are just quiet so I'm trying to get them to talk a little bit, but both of these guys are very athletic, very talented. I'm looking forward to continue to keep working with them. Besides watching their film, seeing them live in person is amazing to watch."

What does Slay, entering his 12th NFL season, ultimately want to impart on the likes of Mitchell, DeJean and the cast of other young corners the Eagles have? The main thing he says is teaching them "how to be a pro."

"I was talking to them today, just letting them know I'm always here," Slay said of the young guys. "Whatever you need from me, I got you, give them the blueprint of everything to ensure that they succeed at this level. That's my job to do. That's always what I've been brought up to do."

They may need help knowing the ropes of being a starting outside cornerback sooner rather than later. 

At Wednesday's practice, Slay, naturally, received first-team corner reps, frequently matching up with superstar A.J. Brown. Opposite him was the recently reinstated Isaiah Rodgers, who the Eagles signed last August but was suspended for the 2023 season for violating the league's policy on gambling. Mitchell and DeJean were the cornerbacks on the second-team defense. Bradberry was absent from the voluntary workouts. He may be forced into a competition this summer and, after a disastrous 2023, he could even be released. 

Things change swiftly in the NFL. Injuries happen, so many things do. If the Eagles are to call upon Mitchell and/or DeJean for huge roles this fall, they'll need all the help they can to adjust from the college game. Slay wants to provide that. The Eagles are banking on that being a winning formula. 

MORE: Jimmy Kempski's OTAs practice notes

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