Sun, 05 Feb 2023

Spadaro: Darius Slay delights in showdown with Aaron Rodgers

Philadelphia Eagles
26 Nov 2022, 18:12 GMT+10

Dave Spadaro

He has been on both sides in the Battle Against Aaron Rodgers, and that's just the way it is when you're going against one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the league. Few cornerbacks have seen him more than Darius Slay, who from 2013 through 2019 played with the Detroit Lions in the same division as Rodgers and the Packers. There were 11 games total that Rodgers played in those seasons against Detroit - he was injured for three of the games, including both in the 2017 season - and Green Bay went 7-4 in those contests.

"You know, he's one of the greatest ever, somebody I respect very much, and I'm excited to see him again," said Slay, who last saw Rodgers in 2020 when Green Bay defeated Philadelphia 30-16 at Lambeau Field and Rodgers tossed three touchdown passes. "He can make all the plays. He has the most gifted arm. Very accurate. He does it all. If you are gonna draw up a quarterback, you're going to draw up that kind of quarterback."

As Slay said, there certainly is respect for Rodgers throughout the locker room. The Eagles know that to beat the Packers on Sunday night in this prime-time battle, they've got to find a way to disrupt Rodgers, one of the league's best quarterbacks in a generation. At the age of 38 and in his 18th NFL season, Rodgers has thrown 19 touchdown passes and just 7 interceptions this season. He acknowledged earlier this week that he's been playing since Week 5 with a broken thumb, but that hasn't stopped him from tossing 5 touchdown passes and zero interceptions the last two games.

A broken thumb. Five and zero.

"Doesn't matter," Slay said. "He's still Aaron Rodgers. You know what you're going to get against him."

And what you get when you play Rodgers is a quarterback in total command, a player who gets rid of the football as fast as any in the history of the NFL, who sees things before they happen. You think you are going to fool Rodgers? Think again.

He knows what a defensive back is going to do many times before the players know himself.

"The way he controls the game, that's really what separates him," Slay said. "The vision, man, he sees everything. He's been in the league so long you can't even disguise much stuff, know what I'm saying? It's more like him messing it up more than us making a play."

This season has been one tougher than normal for Rodgers and for a Packers team that is 4-7 and fighting for its playoff life on Sunday night. That makes Green Bay an especially dangerous team as the Eagles understand. Green Bay traded star wide receiver Davante Adams to Las Vegas in the offseason and turned the wide receiver corps over to younger players. Very talented ones, but ones with less experience.

So for Rodgers and the Packers' offense that has sometimes been off-kilter, that getting-to-know-you period has taken a touch longer than usual.

"He hasn't changed. He's getting the job done," Slay said. "He has a new team, so he has to build these young guys up. Why he's so great is that he puts them in position and then he works with those guys until they understand him. The younger guys just have to catch up to what he wants.

"I'm excited to go against this quarterback. He is one of the greatest ever. To be on the field going against him, it's always been a blessing for me. When I was growing up, I was playing ARod in video games, in fantasy. I've been going against him for so long, we have a lot of mutual respect. I have his game jersey. I'm on my high horse. I love ARod."

Christian Watson is the new go-to receiver for Green Bay in his rookie season. He has 18 catches for the season, but 8 of them have come in the last two games, with 5 touchdowns. He is big and fast and strong and emerging. The entire offense, after some bumps and bruises for much of the season, has been building.

That has caught Slay's eye.

"They have a lot going for them over there," he said. "It's going to be a tough opponent. We have to execute. ARod is among the best ever. We can't slip. We know how tough it's going to be. This is a game we need to win. We're in the spotlight and we're going up against an amazing quarterback. I think we're all excited about this one."

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