The Detroit Lions had many issues on special teams in 2012, especially in the return game. Stefan Logan was not good, and he was finally benched at the end of last season. Now the Lions are in search of a new returner, and they have plenty of options on their roster to choose from.
One of their options is second-round pick Darius Slay, a cornerback from Mississippi State. He didn't return kicks or punts at Mississippi State, but he was an exceptional returner at his junior college. He received multiple accolades for his return skills, and he said after he was picked that he wants to once again have a chance to be a returner.
On if he has ever returned kicks: "Yeah, I returned kicks. I was the number one junior college returner in junior college when I came out. I don't know why I didn't this year but I'm looking forward to returning."
On if he knows whether he will return kicks with the Lions: "I went to the special teams coach. They said that they found out that I did returns. So, they will probably let me practice it. But I'm ready to get there."
In response to Slay's desire to be a returner, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said that there are a lot of players on the roster who will have a shot to win the job, according to Justin Rogers. Schwartz also said that it will be "decided on merit," which would be nice for a change considering how long it took for Logan to finally lose his job as the returner last season.
It obviously remains to be seen if Slay will truly get a chance to be the Lions' returner, and considering he is recovering from a knee injury, I have my doubts that they will turn him loose on special teams. However, he definitely fits the profile of somebody you would want returning kicks. He has blazing speed (4.36 40-yard dash at the combine), and given his success at the JUCO level, it's clear he's got the instincts to be a solid returner. It's also worth noting that Slay returned 2 interceptions for touchdowns in college, and he averaged 20.2 yards per interception at Mississippi State last season. While there is definitely a risk that comes along with returning kicks and punts, Slay deserves a shot to win the job in training camp.
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• Grade the Lions' 2013 draft class