After starting three of four games last season before being placed on IR, many assume second-year cornerback Bill Bentley is the most likely candidate to take the starting RCB position opposite Chris Houston. However, a closer look at his strengths and weaknesses reveals that his best fit may be inside.
Here’s an excerpt from my 2012 scouting report where I gave Bentley a 6.5 D grade (mid third round pick/possible starter potential).
Strengths: Smooth athlete with excellent lower body flexibility – change of direction is clean with little to no wasted motion. Has the quick feet and balance to mirror receivers through breaks. Plant and drives with quick first step and explosive close. Possesses the play speed to stay in tight coverage all over the field. Excellent read and react skills. Plays with swagger.
Weaknesses: Average height with thin frame. Lacks ideal strength and can get pushed around off the line and downfield. Press technique is raw. Route recognition skills need development. Needs to do a better job of tracking the ball vertically. Very inconsistent in run support and as a tackler. Not physical.
Summary: Thin-framed, finesse prospect with the athletic tools become an effective cover corner. Bentley played in a predominantly zone scheme and is most comfortable playing off and angled to the QB where he can read the action and use his explosive first step to plant and drive on the throw. However, he clearly possesses the quick feet, flexibility, balance and speed to mirror receivers in M/M. If he can get stronger and improve his ability to jam receivers, he has the physical tools to be productive when pressing the line. Adding size and strength may also improve his consistency in run support as well. Bentley should be able to contribute in nickel packages this year, but will need time to get stronger and improve his technique before he can start on the outside. Third round developmental prospect with the upside.
While his lack of size and strength may always cause Bentley to struggle matching up on the outside vs. the bigger receivers in today’s NFL, his quick feet, acceleration and instincts could provide him with the ability to effectively cover receivers from the slot.
Overall, the talent level for the cornerback position is much better than in recent seasons and the competition to start will only help the team raise its level of play. Regardless of where he ends up, there’s certainly a lot for Lions fans to get excited about as they contemplate the possibilities for Bill Bentley heading into training camp.