Darius Slay: Name A Cornerback Outplaying Me In NFC North

After Kyle Fuller, he doesn't want to hear it.

Will Burchfield
December 20, 2018 - 2:53 pm

© Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

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In all reality, Darius Slay deserved a Pro Bowl nod like this one. For the various times he's been snubbed -- 2016 being the most glaring example -- it's fair he'd be honored in a year his numbers aren't quite up to snuff. 

A season after posting eight picks and 34 passes defended, both of which were NFL highs, Slay has three picks and 18 passes defended. Strong production, to be sure, but a notch or two below his now-elite standard. 

Maybe that's why he didn't finish among the top 10 cornerbacks in the fan vote. Nevertheless, Slay will be in Orlando Jan. 27, voted into the Pro Bowl by players and coaches. 

If some observers were surprised by his election, the man himself was anything but. 

"Hell nah," Slay said on Wednesday. "Ain’t no surprise about that." 

But what about the interceptions? They're...well, they're down. 

"I got three of them. And I’d just like to know who in the (NFC) North is playing better than me besides (Kyle) Fuller. Other than that, ain’t nobody playing better than me right now," Slay said. 

He may have a point.

Xavier Rhodes, the division's standard bearer for cornerbacks, is having a subpar year in Minnesota. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranks him No. 77 at his position. Slay ranks No. 31. 

Only three corners in the NFC North rank higher. The best among them is Chicago's Fuller, who leads the league in both passes defended (28) and picks (7). He ranks third overall. And Slay has no problem acknowledging his hustle. 

Then there's Fuller's counterpart Prince Amukamara (No. 14), Minnesota's Holton Hill (No. 23) and Green Bay's Jaire Alexander (No. 25). Had he not been traded to the Redskins earlier this season, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (No. 9) would make the list as well. 

But Amukamara is the only one whose production stacks up to Slay's. He has 14 passes defended and three picks. Hill and Alexander aren't in the same neighborhood. Nor, for that matter, is Clinton-Dix. 

Then there's the fact Slay has traveled pretty much all season long with the opposition's top receiver. He's allowed a passer rating of 84.8 when quarterbacks throw his way -- down from last season's mark of 55.6, yes, but nothing to be ashamed about. 

And say what you want about his diminished numbers, but Slay's still tied for fourth among corners in passes defended and tied for third in picks. All things considered, he's firmly established himself as one of the top defensive backs in the game. 

"It feels good, man. Guys starting to notice me out there, people watching film, paying close attention. Most of the time I gotta go wherever the best guy goes. Competing at a high level, making plays on some of the top guys in this league. I put in a lot of work to deserve this kind of achievement," he said. 

Quandre Diggs also earned some recognition in the Lions secondary, being named a Pro Bowl alternate. 

"Thought he should be more," said Slay, "but that’s how everybody sees it."

In his first full season at safety after beginning his career at corner, Diggs has made plays all over the field. No one in Detroit's secondary hits harder, which is all the more impressive considering his 5'9 stature. 

"Quandre’s playing at an elite level -- and at 5’2-1/2, so that should have given him more nod," Slay cracked. "But I’m proud of him, man. He works hard and he put a lot of great film out there. The one thing I know about him, he’s going to go 100 percent every day." 

The same could be said for Slay. Though the Lions are out of the playoff race with two games remaining, Slay will have no problem getting geared up to play.

It's not about playing spoiler Sunday against the Vikings, not primarily, at least. It's about pride -- #onepride, for Slay. 

"I'm playing because I got a name to represent, my name on the back of my jersey, and I got guys that depend on me to go out here and go hard," he said. "That’s what I’m playing for, that’s what I play for every game.

"Whatever comes with it, comes with it, but my first thing is going hard for these guys that I go to war with every day in this room."