The Eagles trading of receiver Jordan Matthews was met with mixed reviews.
The arguments ranged from fair to, frankly, kind of silly. I definitely understand the numbers. He was crazy productive in his three seasons with the Eagles and became a reliable target for franchise quarterback Carson Wentz. Plus, he's Wentz's bff and Carson was super sad.
But seriously, I don't want to take away from what Matthews meant to his teammates, especially Wentz. But the reality is he's a limited, slot receiver who likely would've commanded too much money to return next season.
Here's the bottom line: Ronald Darby showed on Thursday why Howie Roseman pulled the trigger on trading Matthews and a third-round pick.
So you may wonder, why would the Bills give up on a 23-year-old corner if he's so promising?
You all know the story by now. After having a tremendous rookie season, Darby struggled in Year 2. The former second-round pick was limited with a hamstring injury early in the season and suffered a concussion in Week 12. Factor health in with a Bills defense that struggled as a unit and a team entrenched in turmoil that resulted in the firing of its head coach and GM, and Darby wasn't exactly set up for success.
Darby also didn't fit the mold of what Buffalo is now looking for in a corner. New head coach Sean McDermott utilized long corners when he was in Carolina. After losing veterans Josh Norman and Charles Tillman, the Panthers drafted James Bradberry and Daryl Worley in 2016. Both measured at 6-foot-1 with 33 3/8" arms at the combine. Darby also excels in man coverage. Last season under McDermott, Carolina played more zone coverage than any team in the NFL.
Darby is by no means perfect. The positives: crazy fast, quick feet, tremendous anticipation. The negatives: suspect hands, not a great tackler, gets lost in zone coverage at times. All of that was on display against his former team Thursday.
On his first snap, he missed an open field tackle against LeSean McCoy. Who cares? So have most of the DBs in the league. Besides, his main job is to cover receivers. Give me a corner that can stick an opposing team's No. 1 receiver over one that's a good tackler any day of the week.
With that said, Darby looked explosive in coverage. During the Bills' second possession on 2nd-and-10, Tyrod Taylor was looking for Anquan Boldin on a 10-yard out. Darby breaks up the play and there's so much to like about it. Darby is playing off man, giving Boldin a cushion. Darby has one eye on Boldin and the other on the quarterback. He's able to time it perfectly and use his speed to close the gap quickly. The only thing you'd like to see is him finish the play. It's an easy pick six if he does.
Speaking of finishing, Darby didn't waste his second opportunity. Still in the first quarter, Taylor decides to take a shot down the field after a LeGarrette Blount fumble. Boldin tries to beat him with a double move but Darby doesn't take the cheese (something he did often at Florida State). Taylor faces heavy pressure from the Eagles' front and heaves it up for grabs. Darby snags it and goes 48 yards on the return.
The most impressive thing on both plays is Darby's ability to keep his eyes on the quarterback while maintaining coverage. That's what allows him to anticipate throws and recognize routes so well. For years the Eagles have lacked a corner with the ability to turn around and play the football. Darby's unbelievable speed and foot quickness allows him to do so.
To keep this in perspective, Darby was facing a quarterback in Taylor that he saw an awful lot of over the last two-plus years. He was also covering the 36-year-old Boldin, who's been with Buffalo for a little over a week. But impressive none the less.
Does one preseason game mean Darby is the next Darrelle Revis? Of course not.
But he has a chance to be a pretty damn good corner.