Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez debate why the Lions should and should not tank the rest of the season, and preview Panthers game, Nov. 15, 2018.
Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press

Christian McCaffrey is one of the best all-purpose running backs in the NFL.

He leads the Carolina Panthers in rushing yards, receptions and touchdowns, and the Detroit Lions know that stopping him Sunday will be key to snapping their three-game losing streak.

Lions cornerback Darius Slay marveled at McCaffrey’s abilities Thursday, and at how different he is from other NFL running backs.

“I just never saw a white guy do it like that,” Slay said. “He goes ham out there and like he plays on an elite level at the running back. (Most) white running backs (are known for) running folks over, he be out there shaking them and doing all what he needs to do, and catch it in the air. So he’s special. He’s special.”

McCaffrey is tied for 10th in the NFL with 579 yards rushing through nine games, two spots ahead of Lions rookie Kerryon Johnson.

He also ranks in the top 20 in the league with 54 receptions, and his eight total touchdowns rank 11th. 

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“He’s a Theo Riddick, that’s what it is,” Slay said. “Great at it and can run between the tackles. Great guy. Great speed. Great vision. He’s very talented, man, at a young age. For him to be young with a lot on his shoulders, he handles it pretty well, so it’s exciting to watch him on film. I like watching him. Smooth.”

Slay said he marveled at McCaffrey as a college player, when he was runner-up to Derrick Henry for the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore at Stanford.

“I’m like, ‘Man, this man is exciting,'” Slay said. “Oh my goodness. He was smooth out there. He does his thing now. He does his thing.”

And the fact that McCaffrey’s style transcends stereotypes?

“It’s just like, that’s just new in our days,” Slay said. “Like have you ever seen one like that? … Me either. I mean, like, shoot. I didn’t either. He’s first. The first of a kind. That’s fire. He’s on it. Like he be shaking folks.”

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Slay is expected back Sunday after sitting out last week’s loss to the Chicago Bears with a knee injury, an experience he called “awful.”

Mitchell Trubisky threw for a career-high 355 yards and the Lions’ depleted secondary gave up a eight pass plays of 20 or more yards in a 34-22 loss.

“Individually it helped me but not as a team cause I know I could have helped them contribute and put in a good (contribution) to the team,” Slay said. “But like I said, end of the day, it’s my body out there, going out to war for these guys and I got to make sure I take care of myself first.”

Slay injured his knee in practice before a Week 9 game against the Minnesota Vikings, but played that week. He sat out all of practice last week and returned on a limited basis Wednesday.

He said Thursday it was not his decision to sit out against the Bears and that his knee feels “pretty good” after the week off.

“That’s just how it is,” Slay said. “It’s a business. And at the end of the day, it’s your body, your life, so you just gotta live it. So whatever do what’s best for yourself sometimes.”

Contact Dave Birkett: Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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