My feelings were poor about Darius Slay coming away from the Bears game four weeks ago, but he rose to the occasion last week against the Packers on Thanksgiving. Starting in place of Chris Houston, Slay didn’t have an easy task ahead of him. Even with Aaron Rodgers out of the lineup, covering Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and even Jarrett Boykin has proven tough for a lot of NFL cornerbacks, especially a rookie.
Let’s take a look at how he did.
Score: Lions 24, Packers 10
Time: 1:02 left in the 3rd Quarter
Situation: 2nd & 13 at the Packers 2
Slay doesn’t get credit for the safety here, but if this were basketball he’d be the one delivering the alley oop to Ndamukong Suh.
The Packers try to run a quick slant to Jarrett Boykin. With both linebackers condensed in the middle of the field this puts pressure on Darius Slay to play with good technique.
I’ve given Slay criticism in the past for not being physical enough when in man coverage. Here he does a terrific job. He gets a good jam on Boykin right from the beginning which throws his timing off. If Slay gives him a clean release he would have been open in the void between Slay and Levy.
I don’t want to give Slay all of the credit for the sack/safety, because Suh absolutely blows up the line of scrimmage. What Slay does a great job of, however, is take away the one read Matt Flynn had.
Score: Lions 33, Packers 10
Time: 11:58 left in the 4th Quarter
Situation: 3rd & 11 at the Packers 19
Result: Incomplete Pass, Punt
By this point in the game the Packers had essentially been beaten into the ground, both physically and emotionally, but the Packers kept taking their shots downfield on offense.
On this play, Darius Slay gets fooled a little bit by Jarrett Boykin on in-breaking route. Boykin gets Slay to flip his hips to the outside and at this point is in really good position going into his break.
Slay does a nice job of getting turned back around, tracking Boykin, and keeping his eyes on the ball, all in a split second.
What makes Slay special–and a key reason the Lions drafted him–is his speed. He’s able to make up for his earlier mistake by catching up with Boykin and getting his arm between the receiver and the ball.
One thing I love about Darius Slay is confidence and ability to bounce back after a bad play or game. Last Thursday he did just that. According to Pro Football Focus, Slay had the highest coverage rating of any Lions cornerback this season. It still has yet to be seen whether or not Slay can carry that performance forward, but it should at least give Lions fans a sense of hope that they have a young guy in the secondary who is developing.
Jim Schwartz had similar thoughts on Tuesday,
"It validates the things that we felt good about him,” he said. “We’ve said it over a couple weeks that he was doing good things in practice and we had confidence (in him) and he was on the right track.”"
Slay needs to continue to prove to his coaches–and to fans–he can be consistent. As the Lions get ready to head to Philadelphia for a big NFC matchup, its unclear whether he will get another start or if Chris Houston will be back. Either way, if Darius Slay continues to play well, look for him to get more playing time as the season goes on.
*All images were created using NFL Game Rewind, unless otherwise noted. (subscription required)
*Quotes are courtesy of detroitlions.com