Yes yes, I know we’re not supposed to get ahead of ourselves here, but I feel very comfortable with this take. It’s not even a hot take really, but James Bradberry and Darius Slay is the best cornerback pair the Eagles will have put on the field since Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown back in 2007. That was 15 years ago!
The truth is that James Bradberry could be a CB1 on some teams. It depends if you get the top-20 Bradberry of 2020 or the top-40 Bradberry of 2021. But the Bradberry floor is a top-end CB2, so no matter how you slice you’ve got one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFC, and quite easily the best duo on paper that we’ve seen in Philadelphia in quite some time.
If I had to go ahead and rank the groupings since… let’s pick an arbitrary time like the year 2000, this is what I’d have:
- Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor
- Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown
- Slay and Bradberry
- (large gap here)
- the 2008 Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown year
- Darby/Mills, then everything else
When I did this list on Twitter I originally had Slay and Bradberry #2, but circled back and moved Lito and Sheldon up there. Those two were underrated, probably because they followed the Taylor and Vincent era, which is when the Eagles first started to become really good. But they were the CB pair during the Super Bowl year and stayed together for a few more years after. Lito went to the Pro Bowl in 2004 and 2006 and Sheldon had eight interceptions during a four-year period in which he didn’t miss a single game.
Obviously Vincent and Taylor have to be #1 on the list. That 2002 season in which they both went to the Pro Bowl and both became All-Pro players was something else. The ceiling of Eagles CB play going back to the year 2000 tops out with their combined performances that year.
When you go through the rest of the list, there’s a lot of meh. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills were the corners on the Super Bowl team, though Patrick Robinson’s slot play and Malcolm Jenkins as a utility knife is a big part of that defensive backfield success story. Some other pairings I came across while doing this story were:
- Asante and Dimitri Patterson
- Asante and Nnamdi Asomugha
- Nnamdi and DRC
- Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams
- Byron Maxwell and Nolan Carroll
- Carroll and Leodis McKelvin
- Avonte Maddox and Slay
We’re only going back to 2000 for this exercise, but obviously the Birds had some fantastic combos in the 80s and 90s. Eric Allen with Ben Smith comes to mind. I think there was an Allen and Roynell Young year in there. Herman Edwards as well.
But yeah, Bradberry and Slay on the paper is one of the best duos they’ve ever had, and easily the best tandem in 15 years. Go Birds.
(2006) Sheldon Brown lays out Reggie Bush.pic.twitter.com/8XRMNh1x6k
— Barstool Philly (@BarstoolPhilly) December 12, 2020