Every week it seems like Darius Slay faces one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
But whether it’s Odell Beckham, who he covered in Week 2, Julio Jones, who he got in Week 3, Antonio Brown, who he’ll square off with this week, or someone with a much lower Q rating, Slay said he takes the same approach on the field.
“I’m always excited about all matchups,” Slay said. “If there was a level higher than this game, then I could get excited. But I’m at the top of the game. It can’t get no better than the NFL. If it is, let me know. Unless you got football on Mars or something, that’s it.”
There’s no football on Mars, that we know of, but Slay said he’s having an otherworldly type of season so far.
The Lions’ top cornerback has a career-high three interceptions through six games, and he’s held his own in matchups with Beckham, Jones and the New Orleans Saints’ Michael Thomas.
“I’ve played very, very solid. Very solid,” Slay said Friday. “My worst game is against (the Carolina Panthers and Kelvin) Benjamin. Well, I wouldn’t really consider it the worst. He just made a great catch. Made two big catches on me, that was it. I think that’s all he caught the whole game, so I don’t really think that was a bad game. He just made a better play than me then. But other than that, I think I’ve been playing pretty solid.”
Benjamin caught just four passes for 58 yards against the Lions, but he beat Slay for both a 31-yard touchdown catch and the game-clinching third-down conversion.
Slay admitted after that game he struggled defending Benjamin’s size (6 feet 5, 245 pounds), and in that regard he might see a more favorable matchup Sunday even though the 5-10 Brown is widely regarded as one of the three best receivers in the NFL.
Brown, a former Central Michigan standout, leads the league with 52 catches and 765 yards.
“The unique thing about that (cornerback) position, you got to be ready to play them all, because you’re going to see them all,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “You’re going to see big receivers, you’re going to see guys that are smaller with speed, you’re going to see guys that are excellent route runners. So you got to be able to play them all, that’s the key. And if you’re matching up against one guy or another better than, I think what he would tell you is that, ‘Hey, no matter who they line up out there it’s my job to cover that guy.’ He could be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Wilt Chamberlain lined up out there, still got to play them.”
Slay called Brown “very exciting” to watch and said “his greatness is everything” that he does.
“Like I said, he’s one of the best in the business and he brings his game,” Slay said. “I mean, his film talks for itself so ain’t much I can say that y’all already don’t know. He’s a very exciting player, very important to his team and he’s a serious game-changer.”
High praise for Jace
Slay lavished praise Friday on wide receiver Jace Billingsley, who he compared to Brown and said has helped simulate the Steelers star in practice this week.
“You work with Jace, you’re going to get the work,” Slay said. “He’s everything. Fast, quick, talented. can catch. It’s just that guys he’s just behind are very talented as well. But yeah, I get all kinds of work with that guy.”
When a reporter challenged the comparison, Slay said, “Antonio was Jace at once, so you’re saying Jace can’t be Antonio or something?”
Billingsley, who’s spent most of the last two seasons on the Lions’ practice squad, could make his NFL debut this week after the Lions signed him to the 53-man roster on Wednesday.