clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Darius Slay was a top 3 cornerback when shadowing

New, comments

Forget the INTs, Darius Slay was a force in shutting down No. 1 receivers.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not always easy to measure just how valuable an NFL cornerback is. Stats like interceptions or receptions allowed can be misleading. Some of the best corners in the league don’t tally a lot of interceptions simply because their coverage is so good that quarterbacks rarely give them the opportunity. Additionally, a No. 1 corner will consistently be given tougher assignments than No. 2 corners, which can obviously skew the numbers.

But one of the most valuable things a cornerback can do is shadow a receiver. There are some wide receivers in this league that can absolutely take over the game. If a cornerback can shadow that receiver and completely take him out of the game, he can single-handedly change the opposing team’s gameplan, pushing them out of their comfort zone.

So while Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay led the league in interceptions, his best asset may have actually been his ability to successfully shadow opposing receivers. According to Pro Football Focus, the Lions had Slay shadow a receiver in 10 games last year, and he was phenomenal at it:

Only one cornerback was asked to shadow more often than Slay (Patrick Peterson) and only two corners were better at it.

For comparison sake, here are four of the other top cornerbacks in the league and how they performed in shadowing duties:

While no one can touch what Patrick Peterson did last year, Slay bested the two other NFC corners, who both earned Pro Bowl spots ahead of him: Xavier Rhodes and Marshon Lattimore. Rhodes was actually one of the worst corners in the league at shadowing (minimum 6 games), allowing the fourth-highest passer rating of 76.0.

So while Slay earned most of his attention in 2017 thanks to his league-high eight interceptions, it was really his ability to shut down opposing receivers that made him one of the best corners in the league. Receivers like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Stefon Diggs and Mike Evans all had below average days against Detroit last year, and Slay is a huge reason for that.