To anyone who is a fan of the Detroit Lions, it is no secret that they have a terrible secondary. Dating back to the Matt Millen days, Detroit has struggled to find quality players at both the cornerback and safety positions. With that being said, it comes as no surprise that the Lions are currently linked to several players in the draft who play in the secondary. They have been linked to Alabama safety Hasean Clinton Dix, Louisville safety Calvin Prior, Northern Illinois safety Jimmy Ward, Michigan State corner Darqueze Dennard, and Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. At the start of free agency, it was thought that the Lions may make a play for Cleveland safety TJ Ward; however, the price tag for him was out of what the Lions wanted to pay.
Detroit did not stand pat this year with the same secondary that they had last season, although they did not make drastic changes either. They let often injured safety Louis Delmas go in free agency, and they replaced him with former Baltimore safety James Ihedigbo. Even though Detroit made some adjustments, they have not done enough to overhaul a position group that has struggled mightily over the past few years. While safety Glover Quin was a good addition last year, Ihedigbo was not an upgrade over Delmas, leaving a vacancy at that position even though he is familiar with new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s system. Safety is not the only position of concern. Detroit has three corners who are expected to be able to start, but last season none of the three were of starting caliber. Chris Houston struggled for the first season since he got to Detroit. It is concerning that he struggled so mightily last season, but it could also be attributed to the defensive adjustments made by Jim Schwartz’s crew. They made it clear they were playing more of a press coverage so that the defensive line could get more pressure on the quarterback. It backfired as Houston’s play was a mess.
The Lions also retain Rashean Mathis, who was their best corner last season. He is definitely not a number one corner anymore, but he is worthy of a spot on the roster and even playing spot duty as a starter. Darius Slay, last year’s second round pick, was a mess last year but he has a boatload of talent. If he fits into Austin’s scheme, and if he can pick up his play, he could be the answer they need at the other corner spot. The Lions also have several young corners on the roster who lack experience but could become solid NFL football players. Austin has already made positive comments about Chris Greenwood, and his play near the end of the season, show that he could potentially develop into a solid corner. Unfortunately former third round pick Bill Bentley will not be a starter for the Lions. He is best suited for the nickle role and he prefers that spot as well. So he limits what the Lions can do depth wise when starters miss time due to injury.
So what do the Lions need to do? They need to find a safety of the future at very least. If they can find someone to replace Ihedigbo by mid season, that would be a successful pick. If not, then they need him to learn from Ihedigbo so he can become that safety of the future. It will be interesting to see how things unfold, but I expect this draft to be interesting.