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The Lions have completed two joint practices with the Raiders. Some players shined, others not so much. We discuss that and who we'll be watching in the preseason opener. The Detroit News

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Napa, Calif. — Joint practices have offered some stiff challenges for Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay. Two years ago, he went head-to-head with Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, arguably the game's most-complete receiver. And last year, Slay was asked to hang with speed merchant T.Y. Hilton. 

This offseason, the early-camp test is about physicality and size, with Slay spending most of two practice days lined up across from Raiders wideout Amari Cooper. 

"He's bigger, size-wise, with the muscles, than I thought, from the last time I seen him," Slay said. 

The All-Pro cornerback isn't wrong. The 6-foot-1 Cooper reportedly bulked up to 225 pounds this offseason, looking more like a strong safety than one of the game's most-talented young receivers. 

More: Lions tinkering with Miles Killebrew at linebacker

More: Raiders' Whitehead rekindles practice rivalries with former Lions teammates

That added strength helped Cooper win an early one-on-one rep between the two, when the receiver ripped away a tightly-contested ball for the catch. 

"When he's manned up on somebody, (Slay is) sticky, right in their hip," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. "So ball placement is key. One-on-ones against him are very important for me."

Slay and Cooper both had their moments in the first joint practice on Tuesday, including Slay intercepting Carr. It was the first time the fifth-year quarterback had been picked in training camp. 

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On the play, Carr bailed on the pocket to escape pressure, but instead of throwing the ball away, tried to force one Slay's direction. 

"It was nothing spectacular," Slay said. "I was supposed to be and I made the play. If I wasn't where I was supposed to be, doing my job or I wouldn't have made it."

Slay's superior positioning helped him intercept a league-leading eight passes last season, netting him the first Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors of his career. 

Carr raved about the value of practicing against Slay and the Lions' defensive backs. The quarterback plays in a division loaded with talented corners, including Kansas City's Kendall Fuller and Denver's Chris Harris and Bradley Roby.

"It's good to go against all their corners," Carr said. "I played against Nevin (Lawson) in college. He's a heck of a player. I think (Quandre) Diggs is a heck of a player. They've got a lot of guys. Glover Quin tried to do a vet move and undercut my route today. You get all these kinds of looks that's very good for us."

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

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