Throughout most of the offseason, the talk was about how the Detroit Lions needed help in the secondary. In free agency, the passed on all of the big names, and signed safety James Ihedigbo to replace Louis Delmas. At best, that was a lateral move and at worst it was a downgrade. While safety was definitely a position of need, corner was also a position with question marks. Due to all of the young talent on the roster that needed to be developed, I was one of the people who believed that the Detroit Lions did not need another corner. They re-signed Rashean Mathis and drafted Nevin Lawson in the fourth round. So where does that leave the Lions in terms of their corner position?
During the offseason, Detroit Lions corner Darius Slay has been working with hall of fame corner Rod Woodson to learn the finer points of the position. Playing corner in the NFL is very difficult and requires both talent and development time. Slay learned that the hard way last season as he struggled mightily when playing. With Darius Slay being projected as a starter this season due to Chris Houston’s injury and Mathis’ age, his agent Eugene Parker set up a one on one with Woodson. According to Detroit Free Press writer Dave Birkett Slay and Woodson worked a lot on film study. Birkett quoted Slay as saying “He taught me how to take better angles, drop on the ball, then had me doing a lot of conditioning, staying in shape. He gave me little pointers out there (that will help me) become a better player.”
While Slay is getting better and learning the game from one of the best, it is also important that coaches and fans have patience. Even though new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s scheme will have the Detroit Lions corners playing more press coverage than in the past, Slay will still need time to develop. This sentiment was echoed by Rod Woodson himself when quoted by Kyle Meinke at MLive, “If he can correct all his negatives, by the third year, I think that’s when you’re going to see glimpses of greatness. I think you saw a couple glimpses his rookie year, I think next year you’ll see a couple more, and then the third year you should see him break out.”
If Woodson is right about Slay, and Slay can correct his mistakes, he will be the much needed improvement that the secondary was supposed to have this season. Between Houston and Mathis on one side, and a better Slay on the other, the Detroit Lions secondary should be better than last season but definitely needs more work. Maybe Slay can relay what he’s learned to the other young corners such as Chris Greenwood, Jonte Green, and Bill Bentley. If all four can improve their game, the corner position could be set for years to come.