Welcome to the fourth edition of “Who to Rep,” our ongoing series in which we recommend a player to rep for the upcoming week. Our selection process is rigorously unscientific, but we hope you like it anyway.
This week’s pick is a personal favorite of mine, but he earned it this week regardless: Lions cornerback Darius Slay. Big Play Slay showed up in a big way to the Lions’ heartbreaker loss against Atlanta—the less said about exactly how they “lost” the better— with two interceptions for fifty-seven yards (off the famously interception-averse Matt Ryan).
Perhaps even more impressively, though, Slay held perhaps the best receiver in the NFL—Julio Jones—without a touchdown in the contest, and well below his 19.3 average yards per reception (13). Credit where it’s due, Slay had plenty of help from the rest of the Lions increasingly elite-looking secondary, including fellow corner Quandre Diggs as well as safeties Miles Killebrew and Glover Quin (who joined the interception party himself with a thrilling pick-six). Both Slay and his teammates deserve kudos for containing not only Jones, but the generally devastating Atlanta passing offense as a whole.
Matt Ryan did manage two touchdowns, but Slay and the Lions kept his passer rating below 80 (77.6), and by the second half, Atlanta was forced to rely chiefly on their running game. Ryan had an average rating of about 112 heading into the game, and finished last season averaging 117.1, so keeping the league’s reigning MVP to 66% his usual efficiency is a no-question silver lining for Detroit. He’s one of the league’s toughest covers.
It may not get any easier next week, as Slay heads to Minnesota for the Lions first division game against the Vikings. While the Vikings don’t have a Matt Ryan level QB, they so far haven’t needed one. Both Sam Bradford and Case Keenum have looked like world-beaters this year, and it isn’t hard to see why. With a deep and deadly receiving corps and the protection of Minnesota’s vicious offensive line, both Vikings passers have been set up for success.
But neither has run into a secondary quite like this one yet, or a corner quite like Slay. Worse (for Minny), Slay and company doubtless feel like they let one slip away this week, and will be marching into Minneapolis with a chip on their collective shoulder. Rep Slay this week because he’s now put on two masterful performances in a row (how quickly we forget his two potentially game-saving stops in New York last week), and because there’s a better-than-decent chance he’s poised for a third.
Or, if you’re more focused on aesthetics, because he has a really cool name. Either/or.