While interceptions go a long ways to determine a cornerback’s effectiveness in today’s NFL, they aren’t the only thing that determines a player’s worth at the position. Despite a lack of interceptions over the course of his career, Lions corner Darius Slay has proven that.
Slay, who was selected with the 36th overall pick in the 2013 draft, has intercepted two passes in each of the last three seasons. Although the interception totals aren’t high, Slay’s emergence as a strong cover corner has been quite evident. He was passed over for a spot in the 2017 Pro Bowl by fellow corners Janoris Jenkins, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, and Xavier Rhodes, all of whom had more interceptions than Slay did on the season.
Tony Oden, Detroit’s cornerbacks coach, said earlier this month that the low interception totals don’t concern him as long as long is staying within the team’s defensive scheme.
“Sometimes certain defenses, certain calls, interceptions may not happen as much,” said Oden. “Not saying that’s the case, but just when the opportunity presents itself, if it presents itself only five times a year, make those five. He’s doing a good job out here catching extra balls, so he’s doing his part. So those things will come. Those things will come.”
Although he only forced three turnovers last season, they were all quite timely. His forced fumble with less than three minutes remaining in an October game against the Philadelphia Eagles set up Matt Prater‘s go-ahead field goal. He then closed the door on the Eagles on their ensuing drive when he intercepted quarterback Carson Wentz‘s pass.
His only other interception on the season came on Thanksgiving Day against the Minnesota Vikings, when he intercepted quarterback Sam Bradford with just over 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of a tie game. Prater again booted a clutch field goal following the interception, securing a Lions victory.
“He can improve,” said Oden. “I can improve as a coach to put him in position to make those plays, and those things will happen.”
Oden also believes that Slay will be noticed as one of the best corners in the league this season. “The talent level’s there. He has to do it and we have to put him in position to do it. The chips got to all align, but he’s progressing nicely so that’s a good thing.”