COMMENTARY | The Detroit Lions defensive depth chart at the end of last season was simply not talented enough to be left alone. Chris Houston is a an underrated player, but there was not a steady presence on the other side of the field at cornerback. Darius Slay is someone that can step in right away and learn the nuances of the NFL game on the fly because he is so supremely talented.
Slay is not someone that needs to sit on the bench and watch the game for a couple of years before fulling acclimating himself. Instead, the former Mississippi State Bulldog can allow his athleticism and speed to carry his game will he adjusts to everything the pro game has to offer.
Slay stands at 6'0", 192 pounds and runs a 4.31-second 40-yard dash. He is physical enough to contend with bigger receivers at the line of scrimmage, but also has the type of closing speed to catch up to them should they get by.
This is just the kind of skill set that Detroit needs to add to its defensive arsenal. Slay will enter training camp battling with Bill Bentley, but the team is likely best served to have Slay win the position because it will then free up Bentley to do other things. Bentley is someone who excels in zone coverage and can be an impact player in a nickel coverage role. Bringing Slay into the picture simply allows Detroit to diversify the defense and allow each player to utilize their unique skills.
There are obvious concerns about Slay's injury history. The Lions snagged him in the second round of the NFL Draft, but many projections saw him as a third-round guy because of his knee troubles. Detroit took a chance on him much like they did with Ryan Broyles just one year ago.
The early returns through minicamps are mostly positive, and Jim Schwartz likes what he sees out of Slay, per the Detroit Free Press:
"The thing that was also good is his ability to put his body in good position and leap and time that and find that football. Those are the things we saw from him at Mississippi State. He hasn't been on the practice field very much for us. He's just now sort of getting in to it where he's going through team (drills) and all the other stuff that we do. But he's picking it up quickly and athletically, he looks like he has some pretty good skills. You know, we need to see more of it."
This does not mean that Slay is going to fly out of the gates as an all-world cornerback, but it is encouraging to see that injuries should not be an issue by the time the regular season rolls around. The other positive here is that Slay is adapting quickly to the pace and speed of the pros.
If his collegiate performance is any indication then Slay is going to emerge sooner rather than later for the Lions. While he was only a full-time starter for one season with the Bulldogs, Slay recorded six interceptions, 64 total tackles and two touchdowns in two seasons. He is someone that is constantly evolving and growing as a cornerback and will be a needed asset right away.
There will undoubtedly be growing pains, but the fact of the matter is that Detroit does not have the pieces already in place to allow Slay the opportunity to ease into a role with the Lions. He will have to perform right away and help this team navigate through the difficult waters of the NFC North division.
Luckily he seems like someone who is more than up to the task.
You can follow Nick on Twitter @nickkostora
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football