Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has a crucial job ahead of him, as he has to improve a Lions defense that has incredible talent in the front seven but lacks that sort of talent in the secondary. There are some pieces in place, but the Lions could use another corner, consistency and development out of others, and significantly more discipline. Austin didn’t come into the job with a padded resume, but he does have a great working relationship with Jim Caldwell and, much more importantly, an even better working relationship with defensive backs.
His background is in DBs, and one of the DBs he’ll have to coach up is Darius Slay, who is a promising-but-inconsistent second-year cornerback out of Mississippi State. Both he and Johnthan Banks formed one of the best cornerback duos in college football in 2012, and Banks was the more touted draft prospect of the two. However, Slay also generated plenty of buzz before being selected by the Lions in the second round, but he had a predictably rough rookie year.
Always viewed as more of a “one for the future” kind of player, Slay was burned frequently early in the regular season and needs to clean up his technique in order to avoid giving up deep passes. But he seemed to turn a corner later on in the year and played the best game of his career in a blowout win over the Green Bay Packers. Even though that performance could be a bit fluky due to the dominance of the Lions defensive line against an overwhelmed Packers offensive line (Matt Flynn and the receivers weren’t good either), Slay still played great with three passes defended and some very tight coverage.
Slay had some issues last season, but he has plenty of upside for Teryl Austin to work with. Austin, of course, recognizes that Slay has talent but needs a lot of work to do, and he had a very honest take of the corner.
Austin said, via Lions official site beat writer Tim Twentyman, “You know, as we watched the tape, one of the young guys, (Darius) Slay, I looked at him and you go, ‘Boy, he had his ups and downs.’
“Our goal is to try to get him to be consistent, to be a consistent player. That way, that talent will start to take over, but I think he’s a guy that has the ability out there and we probably want to try to improve. But we want to improve in all areas.”
I think most people would agree with that assessment, and the most important thing for Slay is definitely developing more consistency to his game and becoming less prone to getting burned (much better technique will help). His issues seem to be correctable with good coaching, so the focus will be on Austin, who compared Slay to a young, inconsistent CB that he coached with while the DBs coach of the Baltimore Ravens in Jimmy Smith.