Darius Slay hoping last week's performance a springboard for rest of the year

Posted Dec 3, 2013

Rookie cornerback Darius Slay played his best game as a professional on Thanksgiving, does it earn him another start in Philadelphia?

Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and some of the other players along the Detroit Lions defensive front have gotten a lot of credit this year for "assisting" on plays.

Darius SlayCB Darius Slay (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

Some of Suh’s quarterback pressures this year have lead to interceptions for the back seven. Fairley’s pressure of Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn on Thanksgiving helped DeAndre Levy record his sixth interception of the season.

The tables were turned a bit during Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day, however, when rookie cornerback Darius Slay assisted on Suh’s sack and safety of Flynn in the third quarter.

"I don’t know that Suh gets that sack if Slay doesn’t cover the guy the way he did," head coach Jim Schwartz said. "Slay mashed an inside route. It was a quick pass and the ball was supposed to come out quick.

"They weren’t trying to take a sack in the end zone. They were trying to throw the ball quick, but Slay stepped in front of the receiver, and if he throws it, if not for the safety, it might have been a pick-six."

Slay, the team’s second-round pick in April, played the best game of his young career in Detroit’s 40-10 win last week.  

He led the team with three passes defended. The only play he gave up was a 56-yard pass to James Jones late in the game when he was in a position to make an interception.

Don’t underestimate what a performance like that can do for a rookie’s confidence moving forward, especially for a rookie who began the year as a starter and was then demoted.

"It did (boost my confidence)," Slay said Tuesday. "Just because I went out there and prepared for it and I knew coming into that week I was going to be up. I was coming out there to be play aggressive and stay body to body on the receivers and make plays."

He did that more consistently than he has all year, which Schwartz says is a good sign moving forward.

"It validates the things that we felt good about him," he said. "We’ve said it over a couple weeks that he was doing good things in practice and we had confidence (in him) and he was on the right track.

"I think it validates that and it gives us more availability of players."

The Lions will have an interesting decision to make in Philadelphia on Sunday with Chris Houston returning to the practice field this week. Slay made the start against Green Bay due to a foot injury Houston suffered in the loss to Tampa Bay.

Houston told reporters on Tuesday he’s feeling better, but is still taking it "one day at a time." The fact that he was on the practice field early in the week, though, is a good sign he could be ready to play on Sunday.

That makes the Lions have to decide if Houston regains his starting spot at left cornerback, or the team continues on another week with Slay.

"Gives him a lot of confidence," Houston said of Slay’s performance on Thanksgiving. "He played real good and I was there with him every step of the way."

The talent has always been there with Slay, it was just a matter of when he’d put it all together for a consistent 60 minutes.

"We’re just going to see how it turns out," Slay said of his role moving forward. "I’m going to continue to work like I’ve been doing and keep on fighting."