Pro Football Focus has named the best cornerbacks against each type of route and the Detroit Lions’ Darius Slay was among those recognized.
Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay has made a name for himself as one of the NFL’s best young cornerbacks. In fact, when it comes to in routes and out routes, no one in the NFL was better last season, according to Pro Football Focus. They recently published a breakdown of the best cornerback against each type of route and Slay got the nod for ins and outs.
PFF’s Eliot Crist had the following to say about Slay’s performance against these routes:
"Slay was targeted 12 times on such routes in 2016, allowing four catches for 38 yards, and just 7 yards after the catch. 38 yards allowed was the second-lowest amount in the NFL. He had one interception and earned a QB rating against of 8.3, by far the lowest of any defender on these routes. His interception came while playing in a cover-2 zone. He had six targets while in man coverage, and four targets in a cover-4 zone. On his six man targets, he broke up three passes and allowed two catches, one for 9 yards and a first-down conversion. While in zone coverage, he allowed one first down on six attempts, with an interception and a pass breakup. His first-down completion in zone was versus the Colts when Andrew Luck took 3.4 seconds to throw the ball."
Allowing just an 8.3 quarterback rating is ridiculous in itself, but even more so considering how opposing quarterbacks put up ratings over 100 with ease against the Lions last season.
Equally impressive is how much success Slay had against these routes whether in man or zone coverage. Registering a pass breakup 50% of the time targeted while in man coverage goes to show the lack of production for opposing offenses in these routes against Slay was no fluke.
As for his play in zone coverage, it’s hard to knock Slay for giving up a first down completion when Andrew Luck had so much time in the pocket. “Pass rush completion” isn’t a term used like “coverage sack” but that label applies when a quarterback has almost three and a half seconds to survey the field without a pass rusher getting home.
Best of all, Slay may still be just scratching the surface of what he will ultimately become. By signing Slay to a four-year extension prior to last season, the Lions can count on Slay as a foundational piece of their defense for the foreseeable future.
That doesn’t mean the Lions won’t look to draft or sign another cornerback this offseason, but with Slay, the Lions have one outside cornerback spot locked down.