The Eagles eased the uncertainty surrounding the cornerback position by welcoming Ronald Darby to Philadelphia.
Friday’s trade sent former wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for the third-year cornerback. As chance would have it, not only does Darby strengthen a budding young core at the cornerback position, but he also reunites with a handful of players from his time in Buffalo and at Florida State.
“It’s like a comfortable feeling. Not even Nigel (Bradham) and Timmy (Tim Jernigan), but I also know Corey Graham, Ron Brooks. Those guys were with me at Buffalo so it’s good to be around people you know,” Darby said after Saturday's practice.
Brooks and Darby share one of the closer connections on the team after the two spent the 2015 season – Darby’s rookie season – on the Bills. He tallied two interceptions, 61 solo tackles, and 21 passes defensed in an impressive first year.
“He’s definitely going to be a big contributor in this defense once he learns it and gets it down," Brooks said. "He’s definitely going to be a good addition.”
Adding to Darby’s extensive list of former teammates, safety Terrence Brooks, who played with Darby for two seasons back at Florida State spoke highly of the Oxon Hill, Maryland native.
“If we’re fortunate enough to get on the field together that’ll be a great thing,” the safety said. "Darby and I had quite a bit of time with each other at Florida State and just to have him here is a blessing too. I mean the kid is a scrapper. He goes out there and he’s got tight coverage, he doesn’t shy away from contact, and that’s like me too. So we all bring that kind of Florida State feel to this defense.”
The Eagles’ receiving corps received a tremendous upgrade during the offseason by adding the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and draft picks Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson which allowed the team to make a deal that would build up its most questionable position. Head coach Doug Pederson understood the decision to part ways with Matthews was a difficult one, but the trade was made based on what was best for the team.
“We’re getting a tremendous athlete, obviously a two-year starter. What I've seen on tape – obviously I didn't study him when he came out of college – but what I've seen so far and what I'm hearing is (he is) not only a good teammate but a good person,” Pederson said of Darby. “Someone that's going to get in and get in the mix and get with a group of guys that know our system. We'll take it day by day with him and see where he’s at.
“By no means are we gameplanning anybody right now. It's very basic on both sides of the ball. Just learning the terminology. We've got a week before we play again. We're hoping that he can be caught up and get some reps in the game.”
Darby, who did not practice Saturday as Matthews needed to first pass his physical in Buffalo, will likely headline an Eagles cornerback position armed with young talent including second-year player Jalen Mills, second-round pick Sidney Jones, and third-round pick Rasul Douglas. They will have the opportunity to grow and develop together as a secondary.
“I know it’s a young group. I’m a young guy, only 23, and I saw them today and they’re out there working hard and there’s a lot of talent,” Darby said. “The future is looking bright so I just want to go out there and work with them and get better each day.
“It’s very exciting especially in a city like this with great fans and Philadelphia itself. It’s exciting.”