A Look At Lions Cornerback Darius Slay‘s 2017 Season
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Lions cornerback Darius Slay is being talked about as one of the rising cornerbacks in the league. In 2017, he set out to prove that not only has he arrived, but he is among the absolute best cornerbacks and play-makers in the entire NFL.
Coming out of college at Mississippi State, Slay was a cornerback who was lauded for his incredible athletic ability and very quick hips. But, he needed time to develop a better understanding of the game, as he would sometimes get beat on double moves or misreading route combinations.
While he did need some time to figure that out, Slay’s athletic ability was bound to make him shine if he could refine his flaws. His quick hips, length, and deep speed facilitated the Lions cornerback to shutting down most of the leagues premier wide receivers. It took some time for former Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to trust Slay to shadow opposing teams’ top receivers, but 2017 was the first season where it became commonplace for him.
Playing all 16 games in 2017, Slay tied the league for most interceptions (eight) with Tennessee Titans free safety Kevin Byard. He finished plays much more consistently in run support last season, leading to a career-high 54 tackles.
The Difficulty Of Playing In Slay’s Shadow
Not only did Slay steal more passes than any cornerback in the league, he was also one of the best shutdown corners in the league. Slay finished the year with another career-high with 26 pass deflections. While shadowing the league’s most elite receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, O’dell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, Mike Thomas, Antonio Brown, and Mike Evans, Slay held them all statistically to one of their worst, if not their worst games of their 2017 seasons.
— Logan Lamorandier (@LLamorandier) February 4, 2018
Opposing quarterbacks, offensive coordinators, and head coaches often had to look away from Slay’s side of the field. The average quarterback rating against him in 2017 was an abysmal 55.6, the 6th best in the NFL. Another aspect of his 2017 game was his success on 3rd downs, where he had the most pass deflections of any defensive back. His turnovers typically came when the Lions needed it the most, too. Add all this up and you get a player who had not only one of the best performances at his position but also on the whole defensive side of the football.