LIONS INSIDER

Camp Notebook: Slay practices with the first-team defense again, Suh on the Patriots and more

Posted Aug 18, 2013

Tim Twentyman takes a look at the decision to practice rookie CB Darius Slay with the first-team defense again and what that might mean for the regular season

Darius SlayRookie CB Darius Slay

For a second-straight day, rookie cornerback Darius Slay took first-team reps at right cornerback. For most of training camp, that spot has belonged to veteran Ron Bartell.

But Slay has been impressive in the first two preseason games and looks to have a leg up on that starting spot moving forward.

Slay's ability to play man coverage and press at the line of scrimmage has stood out early in his NFL career. He was so effective vs. the Jets in the preseason opener, he wasn't thrown at once in 28 snaps.

Slay came into the NFL a little ahead of the curve in terms of his man-to-man cover skills because that's what he played the majority of the time at Mississippi.

"I've been working hard on my technique to get better, but I guess they feel real confident about my technique to put me (with starters)," Slay said after practice Sunday.

"I came into the league ready for some man-to-man and right now I'm just learning a different technique than I learned in college. Right now it's going pretty well."

Slay said his footwork has been a big emphasis. In college, it was just about playing and being physical with receivers. Here, he has to be technically sound and he's showing early on he can be. That's why he's getting the reps.

"He's getting some good reps, but that's because of his play in the preseason games," head coach Jim Schwartz said. "His reward is the opportunity to do more.

"He's patient in his press technique. His man coverage is good. There's still a lot of things he's working on ... but particularly his man-to-man skills have been good."

The Lions drafted Slay in the second round (No. 36 overall) with the intention of him being a starter Week 1. If the last two days of practice are any indication, he's on his way.

"It's a great opportunity," Slay said. "Everybody wants to have the blessing to be that starter in the NFL and it would be a great opportunity."

SUH, DEFENSE WANT THE GOOD FEELING BACK

The defensive line play has been good over two preseason games, but the defense as a whole hasn't been all that impressive.

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said Sunday that it's important to walk off the field this upcoming Thursday feeling good about themselves.

"It's just a good challenge for us," Suh said of Thursday's preseason game vs. New England.

"We're going against a very high-powered offense. It's always a great challenge. We had that same challenge, I believe, in 2011 (Lions beat Patriots 34-10 in preseason). We want to definitely come out with a win, but most importantly, get some good hard work in."

The third preseason game is typically a dry run for the preseason for the starters. They're expected to play at least a half of football.

STILL BIG PLANS FOR SCHEFFLER

There was a lot made of tight end Tony Scheffler only getting three snaps in last week's preseason loss in Cleveland, but Schwartz had an easy explanation for Scheffler's limited reps when asked about it this week.

"It was first outing for Ryan Broyles. We didn't want to start Ryan then stop him then start him, sort of what we can do with a lot of other guys," Schwartz said. "It was one of the few times we sort of let that dictate rather than what personnel groups are. Certainly no reflection at all. Tony is in our plans.

"We were also going to try to get him a two-minute situation at tight end at the end of the first half. When we didn't get them stopped we had to take a knee. It was just the way it went, and we didn't want to get him in to the game in the second half at that point."

LIONS SIGN TACKLE

The Detroit Lions added some experience along their offensive line Sunday with the signing of tackle Kevin Haslam.

To make room on the 90-man roster, the Lions waived undrafted rookie tackle Austin Holtz.

Haslam (6-foot-5, 310) spent his first two seasons in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars, appearing in five games. Last year, he played in five games for the San Diego Chargers, starting three at left tackle.

"He's a good athlete," Schwartz said of Haslam. "Like we said yesterday, just getting some of those guys on defense, I think the same can be said for Kevin. To get a young veteran like that at this point in camp, particularly you have a couple more weeks to look at him it's helpful for everybody. For him and for us."

He was most recently with the New England Patriots, but was released Aug. 15.

PRACTICE REPORT

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, quarterback Shaun Hill and tight end Matt Veldman all returned to the practice field Sunday after sitting out Saturday's session.

The team was without cornerback Chris Houston, who did some individual work, but did not participate in the rest of practice.

"We limited his reps," Schwartz said of Houston. "We limited a decent number of guys today. A lot of them are nursing some little things. Not enough to keep them out of a whole practice, but also not enough that we want to push through a whole practice. He's fine."

Not practicing Sunday were: defensive end Jason Jones, safety Louis Delmas, linebacker Cory Greenwood, cornerback Ross Weaver and new defensive tackle John Drew.