Ronald Darby tore his ACL on Nov. 11 against the Cowboys, so by the start of the 2019 season, he'll be just about 10 months removed from the injury.
His goal is to be ready to play.
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"My rehab is going great right now," Darby said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. "I'm hitting all the marks I need to. My goal is to be back by Week 1."
Darby, 25, recently signed a one-year deal to stay in Philadelphia. It's really a one-year, prove-it deal for the talented young corner, who has missed 15 regular season games over the past two seasons.
In 2017, Darby missed eight games with a dislocated ankle but returned for the playoffs.
In 2018, Darby missed seven regular-season games and both playoffs games after tearing his ACL.
On Tuesday, Darby said he thinks serious injuries in back-to-back seasons affected his value on the free agent market. In 2019, he'll not only need to play well, but he'll - more importantly - need to prove he can stay healthy. Darby played in 15 games as a rookie and 14 games in his second NFL season, both in Buffalo before the trade to the Eagles in 2017.
Of course it's been real frustrating. I never got hurt like this before until I got to Philly. So this was new. Everything was new to me. But I've been playing football since I was 8 years old. I've just got to have a healthy season. … This year, I'm gonna go out there, have a healthy season, compete and play hard.
If all goes well for Darby in 2019, he'll be in line for a major contract this time next year. He said he would "love" to be back with the Eagles, but we'll see where both sides of the negotiating table are after the 2019 season.
"I always wanted to be back, of course," Darby said. "It's hard to walk away from a place like this."
The move to bring back Darby was slightly surprising given that the Eagles seem to have a defensive back room stocked with young, cheap talent. But after they were decimated by injuries in 2018, they will at least have the luxury of depth for this coming season. In addition to Darby, they still have Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox and Cre'Von LeBlanc under contract.
Darby said he thinks the talent in the defensive backs room should breed a lot of competition. That would be ideal. But the Eagles are paying him like a starter, so he needs to be that for them in 2019. If he does, and if he can stay healthy, he'll earn himself some serious coin this time next year.
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