Lions: Start of the Darius Slay Era?

The Detroit Lions' immediate reaction to cornerback Ron Bartell's shoulder injury in practice Saturday was instructive and probably reveals their long-term plans in the secondary.

When Bartell landed hard on his right shoulder, the Lions replaced him on the first team with rookie Darius Slay. Second-year player Bill Bentley continued to work in the nickel.

I have to be honest. Bartell was a good player earlier in his career with the St. Louis Rams. But he has struggled so much with injuries over the years -- he played one game in 2010, six in 2011 and one in 2012 -- that it hardly registered with me that he was working with the Lions' starters.

The Lions made a relatively rare commitment in drafting Slay, and he has the kind of size and speed that could help him navigate the NFC North waters as a rookie. In fact, Slay was the first cornerback the Lions drafted in the first or second round since Terry Fair in 1998. You would have to think they envision him as a starter in the long-term and quite possibly right away.