It’s been a while since the Detroit Lions had a potential shutdown corner in their secondary. Third-year cornerback Darius Slay could put an end to that.
During a breakout second-season, Slay finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 16 cornerback in 2014 – allowing only 57.3 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed. This was a stark contrast to his rookie season, where he entered the season as a starter only to lose the job after being benched in the team’s first two games.
Slay recalls his mindset heading into the first game of that rookie campaign.
“Nervous, I was excited for myself. First game was crazy,” said Slay. “The game was fast. I played my first game against one of the best backs to probably ever play the game (Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson), my goodness. It’s my rookie year. I loved it, I enjoyed it. I learned a lot from my rookie year.”
Slay did learn a lot. He took the ups and downs in stride and put in a tremendous amount of work during the offseason to better prepare himself for year two.
“I knew I was talented enough to play in this game,” said Slay of his state of mind as he prepared for his second season. “I made a promise to myself, to my family and my teammates especially, I owe it to them to go out there and play my hardest. My rookie year, I tried to play my hardest but tried to do it in the… moment kind of way. I did it as a player just to be here. Now I take my game to a whole other level.”
Slay has always maintained his confidence. He carries himself with a level of enthusiasm towards football that seems rooted within his belief in his own abilities. He is genuinely excited to show the world that he every bit as good as he believes.
“Just ready, man. I’m too excited for this Sunday to showcase my talent,” said Slay at his locker peering over to an approaching Corey Fuller. “Obviously Corey knows about me, how I be locking him up every day in practice. I’m just ready to showcase my talent to the world.”
Slay’s playful punch to Fuller is the cornerback’s personality shining through. He has called himself the fastest player on the roster, he’s also said he was the best looking. Slay’s unwavering confidence spans across a wide spectrum but don’t mistake it for complacency. Slay wants to be great and is willing to work.
The first step to that is to face some players from other teams after playing only 72 snaps throughout the entire preseason.
“I’m ready,” said Slay. “I’m tired of going against each other. Me and GT (Golden Tate) been seeing each other too much, me and Calvin (Johnson). I’m ready to see some new faces out there, just dominate.”
After losing some key contributors on the defensive line – including both starting defensive tackles – the team might need to lean on their secondary a bit more. Slay welcomes the challenge but also expects the league’s No. 2 defense from a season ago to keep humming.
“Our secondary is pretty good I feel like. I think we’re one of the top secondaries in the league. Nothing’s going to change, we’re going with the same scheme as we did last year,” he said. “We just lost two players from my understanding. That’s nine starters out of 11. Just go out there and prove it I guess. We just going for us, anyway.”