Sep 29, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) makes a touchdown reception over Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay (30) in the fourth quarter at Ford Field. The Lions won 40-32. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Slay obviously has all the tools to be a successful defensive back, but he obviously isn’t ready yet. PFF grades him at -6.4 overall on the season, worst of all the Lions’ defenders and 102nd in the NFL, just three spots better than fellow rookie Dee Milliner.
Still, he’s a rookie cornerback. There’s a reason most defensive coordinators don’t like to start young corners, and Slay is the embodiment of it. There is plenty of time for him to improve.
Slay began the season as a rookie starter, but the Lions thought better of that notion after opposing quarterbacks realized they could pick on him. He has shown a lot more “oh no” plays than “wow” plays early in his career, but again, he’s a rookie, so he gets a partial pass. He has played much better in a reserve role than he did as a starter.
Slay was a second-round pick, so expectations were high for him coming into the season. But he was a rookie cornerback in a retooling secondary, so they really shouldn’t have been. Slay is not playing great, but he’s improving incrementally. He’s right about where he should be right now.
It’s disappointing that Slay couldn’t have taken the starting cornerback job and run with it, but sometimes a run on the bench is necessary. Even Richard Sherman didn’t start every game his rookie season. They Slay wasn’t ready from Week 1 doesn’t mean he’s a bust, it just means he’s not superhuman.