Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay has never lacked confidence, but it was back in 2015, in Green Bay, that he got his first real confirmation that good things were headed his way.
Slay was matched up with veteran wide receiver James Jones in a Week 10 matchup, and Slay was terrific in the game. Up to that point in the 2015 season, Jones had caught at least one pass in every game and had six touchdowns.
In that contest, an 18-16 Lions’ victory, Jones was targeted just one time and didn’t record a single catch with Slay covering him. It was that day Slay earned a lot of respect from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“I was in (cover) zero the whole game and he knew it,” Slay said Wednesday thinking back to that 2015 game. “And he knew he just couldn’t throw it, so he kept throwing it to the other side all the time.
“So he’s like, ‘Man, you get the most respect. No cornerback can just go out there and just be in zero all the time like that.’”
That’s when Slay, who was in his third season after being a second-round pick in 2013, knew he had a chance to be really good.
Slay told Detroit reporters Wednesday it was Rodgers that first told him after the game in 2015 that he was underrated, and if he kept playing the way he did that game he’d get noticed.
“Him (Rodgers) and (Richard) Sherman were the first two people that told me that I’d get all the recognition,” Slay said.
Slay’s gotten better every year he’s been in the league. He became an All-Pro and Pro Bowl player last season, leading the league in both interceptions (8) and passes defended (23).
“Well, the thing about him that you have to respect as an opposing player is he does – for years has done star coverage where he’s playing both sides and playing inside,” Rodgers said of Slay in a conference call Wednesday.
“Not every top-rated corner does that. And for me, that gives a little bump in the respect category because it’s not easy playing right corner, left corner, and in the slot. And he obviously can do it all so he’s going to be matched up on obviously somebody they want to take away from us and we’ll have to smart when we’re throwing his way.”
That’s high praise from one of the best to ever play the quarterback position for a Lions cornerback who’s grown up to become one of the best at what he does as well.
Wide receiver Golden Tate is off to a terrific start to his 2018 season. He has 28 receptions for 389 yards and two touchdowns in four games. He’s caught at least six passes in each of his first four games.
He’ll be matched up this week against a couple slot cornerback rookies in Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson. Alexander has been pretty good through four games, allowing just 13 receptions and a passer rating of 75.9 in his coverage.
“A very, very good player,” Tate said of Alexander. “They have high expectations for him for sure. He’s a young guy. Plays patient. Has a lot of speed. Can be physical. So, I’ve got my hands full.
“He’s going to be a tough matchup. I have to bring it. I could see another young guy in (Josh Jackson). We’ll see what happens.”
Tate is coming off an eight-catch game last week in Dallas that included 132 yards and two scores.
DAVANTE ADAMS A GOOD CHALLENGE
Slay was asked about talented Packers wide receiver Davante Adams on Wednesday.
Slay is a big basketball fan. He compared Adams to Allen Iverson on Wednesday with his ability to shake and bake at the line of scrimmage to get a free release. Adams is one of the best receivers in the league at the line of scrimmage, according to Slay.
“I call him AI (Allen Iverson),” Slay said. “He’s a basketball guy off the line of scrimmage. Good release. I think him and Keenan Allen are the best two guys releasing off the line of scrimmage in my eyes. Whoever is on him has to be ready for all that (shake and bake).”
There’s a good chance Slay finds himself on Adams quite a bit come Sunday.
Adams enters the contest as Green Bay’s top receiver with 28 receptions for 285 yards and three scores.
“Obviously, he’s an outstanding route runner, does a great job of creating separation, does a good job of getting off the line of scrimmage off of press,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said of Adams. “And does a good job down field, he’s got great hands, great concentration. So, those two (Rodgers and Adams) together are very dangerous.”
Slay is currently Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 graded cornerback in the NFL. Opponents are completing only half the balls thrown his way, and passers have a 56.8 passer rating when challenging his coverage.