By now every Lions fan has probably heard of the mega talented Chris Greenwood, cornerback from division III Albion college in Michigan, who ran a 4.34 at Michigan’s pro day prior to the 2012 draft. He has been somewhat of a legendary figure this offseason thanks to his 43 inch vertical jump, and prototypical NFL size for the position standing at 6’1 and almost 200 lbs. The Lions want “bigger, stronger, faster” at the cornerback position and Greenwood has the best combination of all three.
Just about every fan has been itching to see this guy play since he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL draft with high expectations that Greenwood will be the next shutdown corner in the NFL. However, fans have yet to see Greenwood play due to a season ending abdominal injury suffered last offseason.
Although Greenwood has yet to play a down in the NFL expectations haven’t been tempered. With a starting cornerback job up for grabs, can Greenwood live up to the hype and be a starter in the NFL?
Unfortunately for Greenwood, last season was his best chance to start with an even playing field between fellow rookies Bill Bentley and Jonte Green. This season Greenwood finds himself behind with both Bentley and Green starting games last season and with the new addition of second round pick Darius Slay. There is still a vacant spot open for Greenwood to claim, but the Lions will likely give Slay every chance to start this season opposite of Chris Houston, because the Lions invested so much in him with a second round pick, and Bill Bentley looks primed to close in on the nickle with his frame and skill set fitting perfectly in that spot.
So what does that mean for Greenwood and his chances at seeing the field this season?
The answer to that question lies in Greenwood’s ability to learn quickly and make up for time lost last season. Head coach Jim Schwartz had this to say about Greenwood’s progression this offseason:
“His technique is good, but just his understanding of the defense and where everybody fits, I mean, that’s still a work in progress. But Chris has worked very hard off the field last year and now that it’s come time to do it physically … he’s been cleaning (up his mistakes), and his technique has improved from where he was when he came.”
The Lions don’t have time for Greenwood to make mistakes on the field in what feels like a do or die year for Jim Schwartz, which is likely why Ron Bartell has been taking reps with the first team. Bartell is far from winning the starting job with training camp yet to begin, but Greenwood has a lot to prove this offseason in what could make or break his career.
Thinking long-term, the Lions probably envision Greenwood and Slay as their starting corners somewhere down the road, and if injuries play a factor in the secondary like it seems like it does every season for the Lions, that may happen sooner than later.
Greenwood has all the tools to be a top cornerback in the league, but because of his small school background he was already fighting an uphill battle and the season ending injury just made it that much more difficult for him to adjust to NFL speed.
Chris Greenwood went into the NFL draft, basically unknown by every team, especially by fans and media, but left the draft as a rising hope that Lions fans are still waiting to see play. Until that happens, Greenwood will remain on of the biggest enigmas in the NFL.