Slay bells ring
Darius Slay has earned his first Pro-Bowl appearance after what has been a stellar year for the NFL leader in interceptions. Slay has been a lock-down corner all year, a term which has seemed to go the way of the dodo. After Mr. Slay, though, the Lions cornerbacks have big question marks behind them.
For starters, we don’t really have other starters. Nevin Lawson has been very up-and-down. See his missed tackle for an easy touchdown versus Kenny Britt, and his subsequent strip-and-score against the Browns as proof. Lawson looked so good and so bad, all within five minutes.
Quandre Diggs, the expected starter, has made a move to playing strong safety. Diggs has looked pretty good and has made some big plays. Will he end up back at corner, or is the move to safety permanent? At this point, no one knows.
That leaves rookie, Jalen “Teez” Tabor, and D.J. Hayden, an upcoming free agent, as the only candidates to push Lawson for the other corner spot. That is, if Diggs is moved.
Of course, a third down, nickel player, is necessary, too.
If Bob Quinn, the Lions general manager, re-signs Hayden, they still have another shallow group of players. Rookie Jamal Agnew would most likely be a third down kind of player, as well as resuming his return duties and appearances on offense.
I feel the need…
What is really missing, if you study the players mentioned above is speed. Rookie, second-round pick, Jalen Tabor’s pedestrian forty yard dash (4.62 was his best) has been debated ever since. That point, however, applies to almost every defender on the back-end, save Slay and Agnew. They are the two corners who run under 4.5 second forty-yard dashes.
The biggest problem is that most NFL wideouts run a forty-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds. On a per play basis, that tenth of a second over four to five seconds means several yards of separation in that short time span. More than enough to not touch the guy you’re covering.
Go re-watch the Pittsburgh game, and watch Juju Smith-Schuster out-run the whole team to the end zone, and then come and tell me that forty times don’t really matter.
Secondly, our corners, other than Slay and Tabor, are all under six-foot. The best wide receivers in the NFL are well over six-foot tall, with some being in the 6’5″ range. This was true of former Lions great, Calvin Johnson, who was that height at 235 pounds.
Two words: catch radius.
Speed, a bit more size, and some depth are necessary.