A Player Profile Of Darius Slay’s Two Interception Performance Against Atlanta.
Darius Slay Versus Julio Jones
One of the facets of Slay’s game we have yet to really see is the ability to travel with the opposing teams wide receiver. Typically, the Lions have schemed for their cornerbacks to take care of their own individual side. But early this year we are seeing a shift in that philosophy.
Darius Slay followed Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones for the majority of the game. The Lions corner was not able to prevent Jones from having at least some success in this game admittedly. He allowed seven catches for over 90 yards. Slay was sticky all night in coverage. However, with Julio’s big frame, speed, body control, and catching ability, even when Darius was in great positioning, the Falcons receiver was still able to bring the ball in.
But those seven catches came on 12 targets. Slay made Jones night very hard. He was also able to keep Julio from scoring. Two of his three pass deflections came from deep ball match-ups against a receiver who has made a career winning deep ball match-ups, even against the game’s best defensive backs. Its a good sign for the Lions that their fifth-year cornerback was having such success early on against one of the NFL’s top three receivers.
Slay Tipped With Two Interceptions For Performance
Sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good sometimes. For Slay, his luck was actually a result of his skill. While there is a certain element of luck to tipped interceptions, each play is different. Slay was lucky that the balls were in fact tipped, but he was also in great position in coverage to make those plays.
The Lions look like they are in a Cover 3 defensive call where Slay is matched up against Jones who runs a dig route. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan looks to Julio Jones initially. But he sees that Slay recognizes the route and begin to close on Jones as he is entering Tahir Whithead’s zone.
Ryan then looks to his number two target, who is also covered so he goes to his check-down to try to gain some yardage on the play. Slay being tight on Jones’ dig route drew him into the play and when the check-down to the running back is tipped, this positioning is what allows Slay to capitalize on the turnover.
On this play the Lions are trying to prevent deeper pass for the first down as they come out in Cover 4. Darius Slay is running with Muhamaad Sanu towards the bottom of the clip. Sanu breaks on his curl route right at the first down marker as Ryan releases the ball. But Slay recognizes the play and breaks early on the ball.
Sanu turns to run with the ball before securing it and ends up tipping the ball straight back to Darius who was closing in fast. Slay gets the interception and is able to take it from the Lions 8-yard line to their own 47. On both of these plays Slay was able to get yardage after the interceptions, helping put the Lions offense in position to succeed.
The stickiness in coverage, play recognition, ability to close on the ball, and return skills Slay showed in Atlanta, showcases Slay’s ability to contend with elite players and play at an elite level. If Slay can perform this way consistently, will help the Lions feel comfortable letting him travel alone with the opponents best receivers more often and could help the case for the Lions young corner joining the ranks of the NFL’s elite cornerbacks sometime soon.