The Detroit Lions defense has received rave reviews early on in OTAs, which is great news considering the secondary is regarded as the weakest unit on the team. It’s important to remember that not only is it early in the offseason, but offenses usually take longer to gel, especially if a new coaching staff and two major weapons have been added. Matthew Stafford needs time to work with impact rookie TE Eric Ebron and star WR2 Golden Tate, and everyone on the offense could use more time soaking in Jim Caldwell’s and Joe Lombardi’s offensive scheme. As a general rule, it takes longer for offenses to click than defenses. Still, it’s good to hear that the Lions defense is impressing, and superstar receiver Calvin Johnson put it best: the improved play of the Lions defense will help the offense out in the long run as far as quality of practice opponent is concerned.
One player I have been keeping especially close tabs on this offseason on the Lions defense is second-year cornerback Darius Slay, who was a somewhat touted prospect out of Mississippi State last season. Blessed with plenty of raw talent, Slay did look pretty darn raw last season, as he was burned far too frequently and generally struggled significantly as a rookie. To be fair, pretty much every corner besides surprise veteran Rashean Mathis struggled, as Chris Houston had a surprising down year in the first year of a new contract. Houston will bounce back next year, and Slay’s likely jump as a second-year pro will certainly bode well for a Lions secondary that will almost certainly be better next year. It’s also worth mentioning that new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin seems like a bit of a whiz with defensive backs, considering what he was able to do with the Baltimore Ravens DBs last year (most namely current Lions SS James Ihedigbo and CB Jimmy Smith).
But back to Slay. He showed some nice flashes last season that confirmed his potential, and he had a huge game on Thanksgiving when the Lions destroyed the Green Bay Packers. Slay got his hands on plenty of Matt Flynn’s passes, and he stuck to the Packers receivers like a tick.
According to MLive.com’s Kyle Meinke, Slay looked like the best player at Lions OTAs today, and this praise shouldn’t be taken lightly; it’s very notable. Meinke stated that Slay “was extremely sticky in coverage and got his hands on a few” of Stafford’s passes today. It’s great news, as it shows that Slay is progressing along. Obviously it’s just one practice, but Slay has always been tabbed as a potential second-year breakout player, and he noticeably progressed last season before an injury ultimately cut his season short.