Detroit Lions: Darius Slay still has more to prove in 2018
Despite leading the league in interceptions and earning his first Pro Bowl bid, Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay still has more to prove in 2018.
As the only Detroit Lions player to be named to the Pro Bowl on the initial roster last season, there is little doubt that cornerback Darius Slay is the Motor City’s top defensive player. The second round pick out of Mississippi State in 2013 has been flying under the national radar as a top-notch defensive back to everyone but Lions’ fans.
Starting all but three games the past four years, Slay has been one of the Lions most consistent defenders. He averaged 55 tackles and 14 pass defends between 2014 – 2016. Unfortunately, his lack of interceptions, a total of six during that same span, appeared to keeping him from many of the accolades Detroit fans believed the young corner richly deserved.
Last season, Slay turned his game up to another level. Not only did the 27-year old rack up 60 total tackles, he also posted career highs in pass defends (26) and interceptions (8). The latter was good enough to lead the league in picks, tied with Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard.
After the stellar performance Slay posted last year, combined with the consistent play he’s demonstrated in previous seasons, you’d have to believe the Lions’ top defender is considered one of the greatest cornerbacks currently in the NFL.
But that’s not the case according to one football analytics website. In fact, in a recent list of the top corners in the league, Slay landed on their “good” but not “great” section.
"“Another player who is very good, but perhaps not quite great enough to be seen as the best cornerback in the game, Darius Slay led the league in interceptions last season with eight (tied with Kevin Byard), and had 13 pass breakups,” wrote Sam Monson for Pro Football Focus. ” … but he also surrendered three touchdowns and over 700 yards to receivers over the course of the season.”"
Without a prominent rushing attack (the league’s worst), the Lions offense didn’t always put their defense in the greatest of positions. Not being able to run the ball consistently can often times expose your defense, increasing their time on the field. That could be one reason why the numbers appear stacked against Slay and the defense as a whole. Hopefully, the changes set forth by Detroit this offseason will improve their running game.
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In 2018, Darius Slay will either cement his status as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL or continue to be underrated by the national media. Under the skillful hand of defensive guru and new head coach Matt Patricia, Slay should have an opportunity to return to the Pro Bowl if he can build on his breakthrough performance from last season.