PHILADELPHIA — Eagles cornerback Darius Slay was a teammate of Matt Stafford’s for seven trying yet inspiring seasons in Detroit.
Safety Reid Blankenship, in just his second year in the NFL, was 10 years old when Stafford started winning NFL games.
What’s it like defending the 35-year-old Stafford, who won a Super Bowl with the Rams in his first year with the team?
“Like playing Magic Johnson,” Eagles cornerback James Bradberry said. “He throws the no-look pass. He looks one way and throws it the other way.”
Make no mistake, the Eagles are going into their weekend showdown with Stafford knowing full well that the oldest active starting quarterback in the NFL (now that Aaron Rodgers is on IR) has enough, skill, savvy and experience to end their unblemished start.
The Rams average 308.0 passing yards, trailing only Miami (343.2). The Eagles are giving up 279 passing yards per game, fifth worst in the NFL.
It’s fashionable to say Stafford tends to force it, his five interceptions tying him with Sam Howell and Justin Fields for third in the league. But the nicer way of saying that is to call him a “gunslinger.”
“It’s a big challenge,” Blankenship. “I can’t wait. This is going to be one of the first times I guess since A-Rod that we played against a veteran quarterback like that. He plays the game within the game. He’ll look one way and throw it the other way. You’ll see multiple clips of him starting guys this way and throwing across his body. That’s just like a freaky athlete. That’s what’s cool. That’s what makes him, you know, I’m excited to go against somebody like that.”
Stafford has come a long way since some of those tough seasons with the Lions. Slay, who calls him “Staff,” knows how tough Stafford is and how much he enjoys competing. He was there when Stafford threw a game-winning Hail Mary to Anquan Boldin in 2017. Any fan of NFL Films can recall then rookie Stafford writhing in pain with a shoulder injury after taking a late shot against the Cleveland Browns, needing to be helped off the field and then returning to throw the game-winning TD pass.
The hip contusion that Stafford sustained before throwing a game-winning pass in overtime to Puka Nacua to beat the Indianapolis Colts this past weekend got the Eagles’ attention.
“He’s great,” Slay said. “Smart dude. Amazing arm talent. He gets it done. He’s in that elite arm talent conversation. He could put the ball anywhere, fit it in anywhere.”
Nacua (6-1, 205), the rookie fifth-round pick out of BYU, leads the NFL with 39 receptions and is second on the circuit with 501 receiving yards (12.8 ypr.). He’s picked up where Cooper Kupp left off.
Kupp, the Super Bowl LVI MVP who is coming off a torn hamstring, returned to practice Wednesday. Head coach Sean McVay said Kupp would be listed as “limited.”
The Eagles (4-0) are under the assumption Kupp will play Sunday at SoFi Stadium. The Rams (2-2) are 4-point underdogs.
“He does a lot for that offense,” Slay said of Kupp. “The offense goes through him. Very talented dude. It’s for sure going to change a little something. Ain’t just going to be the same old, same old. We’ve got to stay technique sound and get after it.”
It’s certainly not a coincidence that the Eagles signed 31-year-old cornerback Bradley Roby to the practice squad and practiced him Wednesday. He could be elevated to the active roster.
The best quarterback to face the Eagles so far was Kirk Cousins. He threw four TD passes but the Minnesota Vikings couldn’t stop the run in a 34-28 loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Mac Jones, Baker Mayfield, Sam Howell … Matthew Stafford. The Eagles are in for a major fight that Blankenship, of all players, welcomes.
“Slay played with him and he gave us tips,” Blankenship said. “But at the end of the day he’s going to do what he does best and we’ve got to be prepared for it.”
Source: Berkshire mont