Detroit Lions: Darius Slay
He was one of three Lions not at the open portion of practice Friday. They were: Suh, Nick Fairley, and James Ihedigbo, who has not been listed on the injury report at all this week.
Reggie Bush (ankle), Josh Bynes (illness), Tahir Whitehead (shoulder), Darius Slay (shoulder) and LaAdrian Waddle (concussion/brain) were all at practice.
As far as Waddle goes, this has been his second concussion this season, and Caldwell said the tackle is still working through the protocol for concussions.
"He’s following it," Caldwell said. "Let’s put it that way."
If Waddle were unable to fully clear protocol, Cornelius Lucas would likely start in his place.
If you want to understand how important communication is in the Detroit Lions secondary and how they have excelled there, a lot of it starts in this room, in this meeting. The players are free to talk amongst themselves. They make suggestions. They critique. They study. But most important, they are talking to each other.
It’s an all-business, no joking meeting going between 30 and 45 minutes before an 8:15 a.m. special teams meeting.
“It’s interacting between us and seeing how guys see things,” Mathis said. “It is very important because once you wait on the coach to do that and you don’t actually have a meeting yourself, you become unsure and you’re not really talking about it. You’re going on what coach is saying and you’re not ironing it out yourself.
“It could be tough on game day.”
The film session is always focused on who Detroit is playing Sunday, never who the Lions played the prior week. They do this so they can start to anticipate what they might need to communicate to each other. They take the game plan they’ve started studying on Wednesdays and talk so they can be prepared for questions for the coaches in Thursday’s coaches-included defensive backs meeting.
The purpose goes beyond actual game-planning. This gives the younger defensive backs -- including starter Darius Slay -- a glimpse into how the veterans think and what they’re seeing. By presenting that in the present, Mathis is hoping it benefits all of their futures.
“That’s all of us talking and we’re coaching ourselves,” Slay said. “We didn’t have the coach coach us. We’re coaching ourselves, making sure we’re in the right spot just in case you’re in the meeting with coach, we already know what’s going to happen.”
Mathis said most of the benefits of the meeting come during practices Thursday and Friday because they can figure out what they went over on the field. But the communication has been vital on Sundays.
It also gives the defensive backs another chance to get on each other and bond while also getting work done. Joking is minimal, though.
“Nah,” said Cassius Vaughn, perhaps the loudest and most talkative of the defensive backs. “When we about business, it’s time for business.”
Slay said the meeting is important enough that if a player is late, he is fined by the room. As much as Detroit’s coaches have worked well with the secondary, they have to be able to talk amongst themselves on the field. This meeting, which Slay called a “vet move” by Mathis for instituting, forces that weekly.
“That’s why we’re having that meeting,” Mathis said. “To get the younger guys seeing how we look at things, how we communicate and these things happen on game day.
“If you’re not able to communicate during the week, nine times out of 10, you’re not going to be able to communicate on game day.”
For the most part this season, Detroit has had no issues there. These meetings are a big reason why.
1. Offensive consistency: The Lions talked up their increased offensive pace and tempo after beating Chicago and while they were moving faster than they have most of the season, they are still operating at a much slower pace than other teams around the league. However, the quicker tempo getting in-and-out of plays and getting to the line of scrimmage helped Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, so the Lions need to continue doing that against Tampa Bay. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to consistently move at a pretty good clip.
2. Running back rotation: With Reggie Bush likely active and back in the lineup, it’ll be interesting to see how the Lions choose to get him involved. He’s never been a good between-the-tackles runner, but Detroit has tried to use him there at times this season. If anything, he’s probably taking snaps away from Theo Riddick, who has proved to be effective when used appropriately. Bush should be healthier at this point than he has been at many other times during his career because of the cautious nature the Lions took with working him back into the lineup. If he still has that burst, he’s going to be a game-changer for Detroit.
3. Not looking ahead: The Lions have been in this position before, just to see it all fall apart in the final month of the season. Detroit insists this is a different team with different fortunes than the ones in the past and that they are not looking too far into the future. They really need to not do that against Tampa Bay, because even though the Buccaneers have a rough record, four of their last five losses have been by one possession. So this is not really the team that was being blown out by Atlanta in Week 3 (56-14) or Baltimore in Week 6 (48-17). This is a team capable of staying in a game. Detroit needs to recognize that.
4. Keep eyes on receivers: The Lions saw a pair of tall, difficult receivers last week when Detroit faced Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery with Chicago. Now, the Lions get more of the same with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Detroit did a good job on the Bears’ duo, but it’ll be another high-pressure situation for Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis, who have been exceptional at not giving up the big play this season. The Lions need that to continue against the Bucs, because Tampa’s best chance of winning is one of those guys breaking free.
The rookie escalated up draft boards last winter and spring and as he’s shown during his rookie year with Tampa Bay, there was valid reason. The 6-foot-5 Evans leads rookie receivers in yards (890), is fourth in receptions (53) and tied with Kelvin Benjamin for first in touchdowns (8).
His average yards per reception, at 16.79 per catch, is second among rookies to Cleveland’s Taylor Gabriel. So he is showing his worth as the No. 7 overall pick, gone by the time the Lions picked Eric Ebron at No. 10.
Here, through the eyes of the Lions, is how they view the rookie talent.
Head coach Jim Caldwell: Obviously he’s scored a bunch. He’s been extremely effective. He’s got size, speed, range, and he’s a handful in terms of coverage. He really creates a lot of mismatches.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin: He’s got tremendous hands, I mean, unbelievable hands. And he adjusts to the ball when it’s in the air. Over the shoulder, behind him, he does some things that you don’t coach. The guy has it. So that’s where it’s going to be tough, because he’s got a huge catch radius. You just kind of have to get it in the area, and if he gets two hands on it, more than likely, he’s going to catch it. … Obviously he was a top-10 pick for good reason, and you’re seeing the same things you saw from him in college. He’s good at getting separation, and if he doesn’t get separation, he can make a contested catch. As a receiver, that makes you good. A lot of guys can run when they’re open and catch it when nobody is around him, but guys are draped all over him, and he can still make the catch. That means you’re a good receiver.
Safety James Ihedigbo: He’s a physical receiver. You’ve got to give him credit. You watch the tape and for a young guy in this league, he has the right mentality. He’s a physical, competitive guy and you kind of put a little smirk on your face when you’re watching the tape. You like going against guys like that. You know the mentality you have to have going against a guy like that. I’m glad that our defense carries that every Sunday. We carry that chip on our shoulder, and it’s going to be fun going against him.
Cornerback Rashean Mathis: He’s a big guy. Adjusts to the ball well, and his quarterback and the offense gives him a chance to make plays. A lot of people get chances to make plays, but not everybody makes them. He’s one guy that makes the plays when the ball is thrown to him. He adjusts to the ball well in the air and all the great downfield receivers do that. He has that ability.
Cornerback Darius Slay: He’s a very aggressive guy. He like to block. He finishes the play. ... I’m just looking forward to the competition, go for it and get better.
"Just from the commercial," Slay said, dropping his voice. " 'No, no, no, not in my house.' "
He did, however, learn from those who understood the game. He leaned heavily on his player mentor of sorts, Rashean Mathis. He spent his second straight offseason working with Hall of Fame cornerback and safety Rod Woodson in California.
He returned to the Lions during offseason workouts convinced he would be a better player, something he saw when he matched up on Calvin Johnson in practice and sometimes held his own. Do that against Johnson and Slay had a shot against almost any other receiver he would face in the league.
So his confidence could return to his game. So could his new taunt, ripped from Mutombo because he respected the longtime NBA center's play and the commercials he did. He added it for the first time during the season opener this year.
"He's not afraid to take advice from other guys and guys who have been in the league," Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. "They give you pointers and tips and you have to take what's best for you and use it. Some guys don't like that, they just want to learn on their own.
"But I think he took all of that and he's worked really hard. This league, a lot of it is confidence and I think he got off to a great start this year, this season, and that has done nothing but help him."
The confidence is evident. One of his bigger lessons, despite the confidence, might have come in realizing he won't always be the best player on the field. Slay's speed and athleticism can lead him to success in the NFL, but if he wants to continue to improve he has to learn how to be better.
"He's grasping the game and he knows that athleticism is not everything," Mathis said. "It can be a tool that can help you excel when you understand a little more scheme. When you understand a little more concepts, that means that I'm not just going to be like, 'Whatever, I'm athletic enough to cover anybody.'
"He understands that there's a lot of great receivers in this league and his knowledge of that is where growth comes into play."
So does understanding how receivers might try to attack him or try to exploit any weaknesses they perceive he has. A season ago, taller, better, older receivers could exploit the rookie.
He's been aided, too, by a scheme that allows him to grow more confident every day and every game. It has allowed him to press receivers and to trust his own closing speed should he need it -- leading to 47 tackles, six pass breakups and his first interception.
"I knew I was capable of doing it," Slay said. "The only thing I did is just challenged them balls more in the air. Finding the ball, tracking the ball, making plays on the ball.
"Coming up making tackles and just fitting in with the defense."
And then sealing any play he makes with a simple shake of his finger.
Major moves in the first half: Lost Bill Bentley (ACL) and Nevin Lawson (toes) to season-ending injuries. Signed Danny Gorrer.
What has worked: While the Lions’ defensive line might be the team’s best unit, the secondary has been the most surprising.
Detroit knew it had a good safety pairing in Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo, but general manager Martin Mayhew deserves credit for signing Rashean Mathis last season and trusting Darius Slay this season. The starting secondary has been quite good as Mathis continues to play better than his age might indicate and Slay progresses into becoming a good starting corner.
Where this secondary has really worked, though, has been in the varying packages Detroit has. After losing Bentley and Lawson, coordinator Teryl Austin devised multiple packages for certain players. First Isa Abdul-Quddus and then Cassius Vaughn have been in a bigger nickel package -- when Abdul-Quddus is in, he plays safety and either Quin or Ihedigbo play closer to the line and when Vaughn is in, he’s in the slot. They also have a traditional nickel package with Gorrer and have found varying roles for Don Carey, who can play safety or nickel.
It has been, for the most part, a unit that has held up well.
What has not: The injuries to Bentley and Lawson appeared pretty damning at first and the Lions had seven players at nickel at some point during the first month of the season. At first that seemed like a detriment until Austin used it well.
Slay has had some rough matchups and has been a little inconsistent over the past few weeks, as the Lions have faced good offenses in New Orleans and Atlanta. Otherwise, he has been pretty good.
Prognosis: The Detroit secondary, once a likely weakness, is nowhere near that now. Slay should improve even more the second half of the season and seems poised for a potential breakout year in 2015.
Quin and Ihedigbo have very good chemistry and should remain as one of the top safety tandems in the league -- something Quin and Delmas were during the first half of last season. The common factor here is Quin, who is as valuable a defensive free-agent signing last season as Golden Tate was for the offense this year.
Quin has become a vital part of the defense as he rarely gets beat deep and is smart enough to often be in good enough position to make a play or force a running back or receiver to have to make an extra move to slow a play down.
It’ll be interesting to see how Austin handles his defensive packages as teams continue to learn what he’s about as a coordinator, but he’s done a good job of mixing up those packages now -- although Gorrer is almost like a third-down back on offense. Unless it is a third-and-short, his package is in.
Slay was in London earlier this week doing some touristy stuff when he was almost crunched by a car.
“We walking and I’m looking for cars to cross, and we walking and it was about ready to hit me. I’m like, ‘Ohh, goodness.’ If he hit me, I would have sued him, though.”
Luckily for the Lions and Slay, the car stopped short of hitting the Lions’ top cornerback, but it is just part of what Slay has called “an amazing trip, man.”
Slay had said earlier this year he wanted to start traveling during the offseason to see some of the world, but this is one of his first experiences abroad. So far, he’s learned about the multitude of Queen Elizabeths and all about how the British drive.
His first tourist experience, though, yielded some impressions because he said he “had to” get down to London as soon as possible.
“I saw a lot of tall buildings and red buses,” Slay said. “I saw the ugliest cabs they possibly got. They’ve got the ugliest cabs. The ugliest. But it’s a great experience.
“It’s like New York, almost.”
Previous Questions of the Week: Go-to dance moves; Last meal; Twitter follow; Ninja turtle; Advice for college freshmen; First job; Football memory; Who makes you laugh; 10 years from now.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- NFL players have pretty cool jobs -- they’ll admit that.
But they are human and they, too, and sometimes wonder about what it would like to hold other jobs. So that’s where this week’s Question of the Week comes from. If NFL players could switch jobs with someone for a day, who would it be and why?
(I’d switch with George Clooney because ... Clooney.)
Running back Reggie Bush: I’d be President (Barack) Obama. I would like to be and know and see what it feels like to be in that position. It’s such a demanding job that he has. It’s a powerful position but it’s also scary, too, to be in that position. You take all the heat for everything. It would just be cool and unique to experience that for a day, be the President for a day. They should do that. Like give that away, like a sweepstakes or something, President for a day. That’d be cool.
Reporter: So not because it used to be your nickname, introducing yourself on conference calls and things like that.
Bush: I just think it would be unique and cool to experience that, to go through that and see what his schedule is like because I feel like I have one of the toughest jobs. But his job is obviously tougher than mine. Just to see what that would entail and what he goes through, I think that would be pretty cool.
Wide receiver Golden Tate: I’ve never thought about that because I love my job. Switch jobs with anybody in the world, who would it be? Probably be one of the golfers, Rory McIlroy.
Reporter: Why Rory?
Tate: He’s the best at what he does right now and he loves the game of golf.
Running back Joique Bell: Megatron, because he is the best in the world.
Reporter: It doesn’t have to be a football player.
Bell: Anybody? Probably Bill Gates. Or Mark Zuckerberg. Because he got richest the easiest. That’s why.
Cornerback Darius Slay: Oh man, I gotta switch jobs with Morris Chestnut.
Slay: Because Morris Chestnut involves movies with a lot of ladies and I love ladies. And I love to act. I’m going to be an actor. There’s going to be one and two, there is no third. While I’m singing and dancing, I’m going to be acting. So it’s all in one.
Reporter: Have you ever acted before?
Slay: Nah. I feel like I’m acting right now. But it’s my way, it’s who I am. I think my days are acting, but I don’t know. Yeah. I want to be Morris Chestnut, me and him, switch jobs.
Defensive tackle Caraun Reid: Hmm. Probably something chill. John Legend. He sings, has a beautiful wife (model Chrissy Teigen). That’s about it.
Linebacker Josh Bynes: My father (Herbert). Just for him to experience something that he never had the opportunity to experience, sacrificing for me and my brothers and my family. Just to get an opportunity to experience this, he loves football and he was my defensive coordinator, my linebacker coach in high school. All his friends say he was one the best linebackers they had ever seen and he couldn’t go through with that because he had me and my brothers kind of early and he chose to take care of his family instead of going off to college. So give him an opportunity to see how this really is, playing in the NFL. Being able to provide for your family as much as you can and just being a positive influence on everybody else to see how it really is and be a blessed individual as I am now.
Wide receiver Jeremy Ross: I would be someone who tries out exotic resorts, hotels, goes and flies around to Dubai and things like that, the most luxurious places and review them. I love places with a lot of luxury and places I’ve never seen.
Wide receiver Corey Fuller: For a day? I would, wow, that’s a tough one. I want to give a good answer. I don’t want to go the usual President of the United States. I’m going to go with the President of the United States. Just you get to see what he goes through on an every day basis. We see him a lot but we don’t see the ins-and-outs of everything that is happening and I kind of want to experience that.
Defensive end George Johnson: Somebody in the food business, like Guy (Fieri). I’m a big food guy. I like food. For some sort of reason I just love food. And I like to taste food. Like do different things with food. So it has to be his job. He gets to travel the country, test different places that people want to eat or go to. I’d trade jobs with him in a heartbeat.
Reporter: What’s the best thing you make?
Johnson: General Tso’s Chicken. That was pretty hard but it was a lot of fun to make.
Wide receiver Ryan Broyles: I want to be a stock market guru, man. Whoever it may be. I want to go for one day to Wall Street and shadow some successful businessman. It’s something that’s intrigued me ever since I made the NFL, really.
He might not have to do that much anymore.
"It felt good, man," Vaughn said. "Still working the kinks and we'll see what happens Sunday. Keep it a surprise up in here so it'll be exciting."
Vaughn hasn't played since the second week of the season, when he replaced Nevin Lawson at nickel for the Detroit Lions. He was injured in practice prior to the Green Bay game and he missed the last three weeks with the ankle sprain.
When he does return, he will at least add depth at outside corner behind Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay. He also might replace Danny Gorrer as the team's slot corner in traditional nickel packages.
"We're going to work around and see how he's doing," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. "We'll evaluate that, he's gotten some reps this week. We'll see how he does when he's moving around. [Thursday's] a big day for him.
"We'll see where we are at the end of the week and probably decide on Saturday how we're going to move forward with who plays in there."
Neither Gorrer nor Vaughn has a positive rating from Pro Football Focus this season. Gorrer has a minus-1.1 rating and Vaughn a minus-1.6 even though Gorrer has played three times the snaps of Vaughn.
Either way, Detroit has its full complement of cornerback depth for the first time since the season opener against the New York Giants, when Bill Bentley and Lawson were still healthy and not on injured reserve.
Previous Questions of the Week: Last meal; Twitter follow; Ninja Turtle; Advice for college freshmen; First job; First football memory; Who makes you laugh; Where are you 10 years from now.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- There’s dancing and then there’s dancing.
While yes, players celebrate in the end zone, the execution of rhythm doesn’t always translate from the field to the club. So it is here that we asked the Detroit Lions this question of the week: “What is your go-to (or favorite) dance move?”
(Question submitted by reader Paul Kuppich -- @pkuppich on your Instagrams)
Here, without any other explanation, are their answers (And for the record, my answer is The Elaine. Yes, it is as bad as Elaine Benes).
Cornerback Darius Slay: Oooooh. I’ve got so many. I’m so talented with dancing ability. It’s like, ‘God, I can do whatever.’ I’m probably the next Michael Jackson if they let me get on the stage but they trying to make me not get on stage. I’m trying to handle my profession right here, and when I’m done with this I’m going to dancing and you’ll see me on there. I’m just letting you know. Y’all better believe me.
Former cornerback Josh Victorian (looking on shocked from his locker): Mannnn…
Reporter: So clearly you want to be on "Dancing With the Stars" then.
Slay: I’m going to be. I’m going to be. It’s not, do I want to. It’s, I’m going to be.
Victorian: That’s on the checklist?
Slay: That’s on the checklist. Gotta get there. Yes. Thumping and all. Nae Nae, I’m doing everything they need me to do. I’m ready.
Offensive lineman Rodney Austin: It’s kind of a fist pump-slash-dice shake with the fist and a two-step but you walk with it a little bit. You can go both ways with that thing. That’s my jam. I picked it up in high school. There’s this dude I used to lift weights with named Demarco Turner and we’d do this dance, man. Like between sets when we were waiting on our turn to go, we were in the back cheering in the back for other dudes just killing it. Like boom, boom, boom.
Tight end Eric Ebron: Man, I don’t know. Honestly, I just do crazy stuff, man. That’s just me. It can be anything. Anything that is new, hot now. I just do. It may look crazy. Nah, sheesh. Man, whatever’s hot, man.
Tight end Brandon Pettigrew: I’m not a big dancer, man, like that. That’s just not my thing. I don’t have a go-to.
Running back George Winn: I’m not a dancer at all. I don’t have the rhythm. I’m not a dancer.
Safety Jerome Couplin III: Since I’m a Kappa, I would say The Shimmy. Cause I’m a Kappa. That’s probably the first thing I do. The music comes on, even during warm-ups or whatever, I’ll start shimmying a little bit. Not too much, though. People came to the game (against the Jets) and they were like, ‘Were you shimmying during warm-ups?’ I’m like, ‘You got me. I’m guilty.’
Wide receiver Jeremy Ross: Pssh. Go-to dance move? I’m not sure.
Right guard Larry Warford: A go-to dance move? (Asks Dominic Raiola, who has nothing) Probably The Carlton. The Carlton’s pretty sweet. I can hit that pretty hard.
Reporter: Why The Carlton?
Warford: Well, I kind of look like the guy. Yeah, I’ll hit that in the dance club all day, man. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Wide receiver Ryan Broyles: The Moonwalk. I don’t know. Michael Jackson’s the man. I actually learned that in like the fifth grade and that’s been my go-to, really. I love Michael Jackson.
Running back Theo Riddick: The Nae Nae. It’s a popular dance nowadays.
But no, there is no truth to the thought that Jim Caldwell is requiring all players to travel anywhere wrapped in bubble wrap.
There are, though, a lot of questions about dancing and injuries this week in the weekly Lions Mailbag. to ask a question, email firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter with the hashtag #LionsMailbag or on Facebook at my professional page.
Now, on to your questions.
@mikerothstein: Let's go to David Bowie, who said "Let's Dance." Or the immortal Ren McCormack can just get everybody a little Footloose, perhaps kicking off those Sunday shoes. In other words, I'm all for dancing and celebrating and generally having a good ol' time. So let guys dance. Let guys celebrate and discount double check their hearts out. It's a freak thing that happened. That's all.
@mikerothstein: Sadly, I do not believe there has been any safety dancing taught this week in Allen Park, Michigan, although we are close to the Canadian border here where those Men Without Hats hail from. But it would be great if Jim Caldwell brought in an Arthur Murray instructor of the Michigan Dance Team to properly advise the Lions players. That would be an awesome story if it happened (it hasn't).
@mikerothstein: It's a huge loss because Tulloch provided talent and stability in the middle. Tahir Whitehead has the chance to be a good player and could be fine as the middle linebacker this season. But it certainly crushes the Lions' depth and could cost Detroit a game at some point. Tulloch was a great tackler and very instinctive. Plus, he fit really well in Teryl Austin's blitzing scheme.
@mikerothstein: Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay have had good seasons, but let's be real here. Mathis is not inhabiting his own island. Only Darrelle Revis can have an island. But the Lions should be very pleased with the production they have gotten from Slay and Mathis and safety Glover Quin through the first three weeks of the season. They have turned a perceived weakness into a good unit.
Amit from Facebook asks: Do you see the possibility of Lions and Cowboys talking trade for Mo Claiborne, with the help needed at CB, and Jerry openly frustrated is this a buy low opportunity? #LionsMailbag
Rothstein: I have not heard them having discussions with Dallas and I don't know if they'd go in that direction at this point. The Lions seem like they are working on making sure they have a certain type of player in their locker room and their secondary and I'm not totally sure he fits there. Also, the Lions are OK on the outside with Mathis and Slay for now. Now if there's another injury, it's possible Detroit could be desperate.
Previous Questions of the Week.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- In terms of social media, Twitter and Instagram still appear to be the favored forms of communication between athletes and the general world that follows them.
But who do the players follow?
This week’s Question of the Week asked just that -- who is your favorite Twitter follow?
(My answer: My buddy John Walters because his opinions on things are often quite different than most @jdubs88.)
Tight end Joseph Fauria @bigjoefauria: Let me see.
Tight end Jordan Thompson @JORDANTH0MPS0N: Say me, so I can get some followers.
Reporter: That’s actually brilliant.
Punter Sam Martin: Actually, say me, @SamMartin_6.
Fauria: I’m looking. I’m looking. Let’s see if Reggie tweeted. (Looks and sees that Bush didn’t tweet at him.) Definitely not Reggie Bush. I kind of like SportsNation. Hold on. I don’t really follow people that are really bad, really funny. I would say either SportsNation or Terez Owens. SportsNation because they post funny memes and same with Terez Owens. Just keep me updated on sports news and what’s going on with the game and Terez Owens is every sport. He’s a little bit gossip here and there, so it’s funny. Best of both worlds. Get my People Magazine and sports at the same time.
Punter Sam Martin: I don’t know. I really don’t know. Someone funny that I follow? I don’t know, dude, that’s tough. Ellen Degeneres is funny. I honestly am not a big, I follow 'SportsCenter' and stuff like that and I don’t get on it much unless I’m posting something or checking games. So, I guess sports and news. Forbes is a good one. I follow Forbes. It’s one of the few that I’ll actually click on their (links). So Forbes and Ellen.
Right guard Larry Warford @wardaddy_75: Funny Pics Depot. Just hilarious, bro. It gets me out of bad moods. It’s funny to follow. It’s pretty hilarious. I think equally as fun is LeCharles (Bentley). It’s funny because he just shuts people down. Those two are my favorite. It’s funny watching what LeCharles posts because he just shuts people down so fast. Someone will say something about diet and nutrition and he’ll go, ‘Nope, you’re wrong. And here’s why.’ It’s just funny to me. And then he puts up a lot of clips of other guys I train with as far as their pass pro and technique. Clips of them doing good things, coachable things. It’s pretty sweet. It’s like a double positive for me. Funny and informative.
Cornerback Darius Slay @_bigplayslay9: On Twitter? Kevin Hart. He’s too funny. Too funny. The stuff he tweet, it’s just so funny. You’ve got to follow Kevin. You’ve got to follow all comedians. Need to laugh.
Safety Jerome Couplin III @WhenInRome14: I don’t really go on Twitter. I be on Twitter here and there, but now more because I’m bored. I’m literally doing absolutely nothing. Don’t have one person for you. More instagram than Twitter.
Right tackle Cornelius Lucas @larry_lovestein: In terms of what? Detroit Lions. They keep me updated on what is going on with the team.
Reporter: Really? Really? You need that?
Lucas: You wanted somebody else?
Reporter: If that’s the truth and not the PR answer, then fine. But I don’t buy that.
Lucas: Actually my favorite thing to follow is NOLA.com. I’m from New Orleans, so I like to keep up with the news back home.
Wide receiver TJ Jones @IamTJJones13: I don’t use it following-wise in my timeline but probably Kevin Hart. Always a good laugh, always something stupid. You can count on him doing something to make you laugh.
This season, though, the former Kansas State receiver has been playing at an even higher level. Through two games, Nelson is leading the NFL in receiving yards (292) and targets (30), is tied for the lead in receptions (18) and first downs (13) with the Saints' Jimmy Graham and is among the top 10 in yards after catch (107).
When Green Bay plays Detroit on Sunday afternoon, Nelson will again be a main target for Rodgers and a primary concern for the Detroit Lions.
In their own words, here’s what they see when they watch the 6-foot-3, 217-pound receiver.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin: "You have to know where he is. Last year, when we were in Baltimore, they had those three guys and we had to know where he was. He hit us for a big play. We know about him and we know why he gets targeted. He catches the ball, has run-after-catch ability and he can take a small one and make it a big one."
Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi: "The thing that stands out for me is seeing all these back-shoulder catches. So body control, great hands, good route-runner. Competitor."
Safety Glover Quin: "They gave him all that money -- he should be on a different level. Probably out there feeling good, having fun. He’s the quarterback’s favorite target, so he’s like, 'Hey man, gets to go into these games and know the quarterback is going to throw me the ball and they gave me all that money,' so hey, he’s living the good life right now. But Jordy’s a great player. I love playing against Jordy. We have a lot of fun."
Quin on Nelson and Rodgers: "It looks like a best-friend connection (between Nelson and Rodgers). It’s one of those things when he gets in trouble, he trusts Jordy to be in the right spot, in a certain spot. He trusts Jordy. If nothing else, if all else fails, he trusts Jordy. If he has to and he’s forced into that situation, and he has a lot of targets, if it comes down to it, he’s probably going down to Jordy."
Safety Jerome Couplin III: "[Nelson is] a playmaker. He finds way to get himself some very good catches. That’s something that you can’t really necessarily always coach. He has the ability to find the ball and track the ball good. So he’s a playmaker."
Safety Don Carey: "He has a good combination of size and speed. Great hands. Smart football player. Any time you come across a player like that, you have to [mind] your P’s and Q’s."
Linebacker DeAndre Levy: "He’s a great route-runner. Catches the ball. Gets open. I think him and [Aaron] Rodgers have a good connection. He can take a slant, make a guy miss and get 10, 12, 15 more yards on it."
What began as a comfortable position entering the season with the improving Bill Bentley turned into a question mark with Nevin Lawson when Bentley suffered a torn ACL. Then Lawson sustained dislocated toes, leaving veteran Cassius Vaughn as the next corner up.
That might have lasted less than a week.
Not knowing who could be at the nickel can change what defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and head coach Jim Caldwell want to do during a week.
“There are some things you can do exactly the same,” Caldwell said. “There are some things that happen where all of a sudden you have to play towards that individual’s strengths so it allows you to do some things that you weren’t able to do before.
“The antithesis of that would be that there are some weaknesses that may come to light as well so schematically you want to stay away from those things that put you in bad positions.”
This is what the Lions have to figure out, especially if Vaughn ends up unable to play. If that is the case, Detroit will either move Rashean Mathis inside on Randall Cobb and play newly signed free agent Danny Gorrer on the outside, have Gorrer play the slot or drop Don Carey down into the slot -- a position he has played before.
Considering Vaughn’s status as of now, it might be a combination of things throughout the game.
The real damage, though, is what happens in games when the Lions lose a nickel corner.
All the preparation the Lions do all week, all the communication Glover Quin, Mathis and Darius Slay have prepared with the slot cornerback all of a sudden becomes meaningless. That practice time suddenly has much less worth.
What went in as planned has become instinctual for Detroit the past two weeks, as Bentley turned into Lawson and then Vaughn at the nickel.
“I don’t think it takes away because some of those things are just game plan things as far as stuff that we’ve seen on film and we want to do this week. Just the basic system and the scheme don’t change,” Quin said. “If you’re working with just one guy and you’re doing certain things in practice and as a veteran player you may go to them and say, ‘Hey if we get this look in a game, let’s do this. When we get this look, this is how we’re going to play it. If we get this look in practice, let’s do this right here and if it works in practice, in a game this is how we’re going to play this.
“When you’re in a game, that’s what you’re expecting with that guy. When you get a new guy in there, I can’t go to him and say this is what we’re going to do because we haven’t talked about that that week so you have to just play it normal and let your rules be your guide.”
If one thing is certain, though, the Lions understand how to cope with an injury to a secondary that has been full of them already.
This season, the thought of pulling Slay out of the lineup would be blasphemous. He has turned into a viable starting corner for the Detroit Lions in his second season. While not always facing the team's top receiver -- Mathis handles that from time-to-time -- he has turned into a more consistent and comfortable cornerback.
"He's improving," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "All along everyone has noted his speed, all of his measurables and he's a willing tackler. He'll come up and put you down and obviously the other things he has innately.
"I see him continuing to get better."
Through two games, Slay has seven tackles, although he is waiting for his first career interception. He's only been credited for one pass breakup, but what isn't seen is when he covers an opposing receiver well enough that the quarterback either forces a bad throw or doesn't even look his way.
Slay received positive grades in pass coverage from Pro Football Focus in both of Detroit's games. According to PFF, Slay has been thrown at 15 times this season, allowing six receptions. More importantly, he has been close enough to the play that he has allowed only 10 yards after the catch.
"I played pretty decent [against Carolina]," Slay said. "Played pretty good [on Sunday]. Made plays that I'm supposed to make and breaking up a lot of balls. That's my job to do. Came up, made tackles when I needed to but I played pretty good."
Slay knows he's getting closer to grabbing that first interception, too. He is being patient with it and after last season understands eventually it will happen. He just needs to bide his time and continue to make plays breaking up passes.
One of those should turn into a turnover one day. He is trusting himself more and using what his offseason tutor, Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson, told him during the offseason. The pair went through his whole season and worked on small technique issues in Woodson's backyard.
With the improvement Slay has seen from his rookie year to his second season, he is already planning on making another offseason trip to see Woodson.
Slay is also trusting defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's scheme more. Prior to the season, Slay said the aggressive nature of what Austin calls and how he likes to press receivers fit in more with his style, especially since he possesses catch-up speed.
It has helped him knock down those passes, too.
"Just my breaking and what I'm seeing," Slay said. "I'm trusting my instincts on what I'm reading."
The trust goes a bunch of ways. Slay trusts the defense. The Lions coaches trust Slay. So do his teammates. After a season where he shuttled in-and-out of the lineup, they realize they have to.
"He understands that we're counting on him and he's an important part of our defense," linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. "He's holding up pretty well for us so far."