By: Will Burchfield
Darius Slay is well-known in Detroit, and it’s only a matter of time before his rising star reaches national heights.
Through nine games, Slay leads all cornerbacks in interceptions (four) and passes defended (13). He’s allowed a passer rating of 63.4 when quarterbacks throw his way.
He’s consistently shut down opposing teams’ top receivers, including the Giants’ Odell Beckham, the Falcons Julio Jones and the Steelers’ Antonio Brown — the consensus top-three pass-catchers in the NFL.
Now in his fifth season, Slay is eager to make his first Pro Bowl. At this rate, an All-Pro selection is in sight as well.
Jim Caldwell believes Slay is on the cusp of getting the national recognition he desires and deserves.
“The more games you win, the better opportunity you’re going to have to get some sort of recognition. But the most important thing is that we’re winning games. That’s what we set out to do. That’s what our goal is, and I think he’s been playing extremely well. I still think he’s got a lot of upside just because of his skillset and his ability. And I think all in all, recognition will come in due time,” Caldwell said.
With a record of 5-4 and legitimate playoff hopes, the Lions certainly wouldn’t be where they are without Slay. On top of smothering one of the opposition’s best players each game, he’s made life easier for safety Glover Quin, who’s enjoying a terrific season himself.
“There’s sometimes when Glover might not have to lean (Slay’s) way in certain situations. He can do a few other things in terms of coverage responsibilities, so I’m sure there’s some value there as well,” said Caldwell.
The Lions’ defense this season has relied heavily on forcing turnovers. They’re tied for second in the NFL with 18 takeaways, 10 of which have involved Quin or Slay.
Bears head coach John Fox is wary of Detroit’s opportunistic defense as Chicago prepares to take on the Lions on Sunday.
“You mentioned Quin and then you look at Slay. I mean, they’ve done a good job at taking the ball away. They’ve been very opportunistic that way with some scores on defense, and that always helps the cause,” Fox said.
Of Slay specifically, Fox said, “He’s a very smart player. You can tell he studies film and he studies opponents. There are tendencies people have, and you can tell he spends a lot of time.”
Slay’s advances in the mental preparation department are largely attributable to the cerebral Quin. The two are neighbors in Detroit’s locker room and train together in the offseason in Quin’s hometown of Houston.
“Glover’s a great resource. He’s a guy that really does everything right,” said Caldwell, commending Slay for following Quin’s lead. “Oftentimes you’ll find a young guy that won’t acknowledge that or won’t understand how valuable that sort of relationship can be. And he’s utilized it to it’s fullest.”
Of course, Slay has always been one to put in the work.
“He loves to work, he loves to practice, he loves the game. He’s got unbelievable competitiveness and that’s always on his mind, regardless of what he’s doing because there’s competition involved in it, ” said Caldwell. “With that kind of attitude and he’s got physical tools, he just keeps getting better.”
With four interceptions, Slay has already set a career high. He’s on pace to set a career high in passes defended as well.
“It’s not easy at that spot, doing what he does, to come up with a large number of interceptions in this league,” said Caldwell. “But I just think he’s becoming a bit more comfortable in his role, which allows him to take a few more chances here and there and get his hands on some balls. And I think that just comes with experience.”
What comes with success is recognition, and Slay is soon to get a whole lot of it.