It’s been no secret that the Lions are counting on Slay to take a big step forward in 2014, but how many in the organization would have guessed that the team would have to play in 2014 without one of their most experienced corners in Chris Houston?
That’s the reality for the Lions and a reality that shouldn’t have blind-sided the organization. Jim Caldwell said he was “uncertain” about Houston’s future, despite Martin Mayhew‘s comments in February when he stated that he expected a “bounce back” season from Houston.
By not adding a proven corner in free agency (Cassius Vaughn is more of a rotational player) and waiting until the fourth round to address the position in the NFL draft, the Lions set themselves up for public ridicule from the fans and media. By ignoring one of their most immediate position of need the Lions have put their faith in players like Darius Slay, Bill Bentley, Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood. There is some talent in that group but a severe lack of experience.
That might scare fans, but it is way too early to judge the Lions by what they did and didn’t do this offseason. In fact, the Lions may be better at the corner position than they have been in the last three or four seasons.
Thanks to a coaching change this offseason the Lions new defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, has a scheme in place that will play to the talents of his young cornerback nucleus. Austin’s aggressive system will keep offenses guessing with a variety of looks along the front seven and man to man coverage outside.
The results from Austin’s system have been apparent in OTAs with the secondary playing with more confidence and reportedly looking much more improved. It’s also important to note that cornerbacks face a steep learning curve. Usually by year three or four coaches finally start to see what type of player they have at corner. For the Lions that means they should see major improvements from their 2011 draft class in Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green.
It’s early in the offseason, but it looks like Darius Slay is the overwhelming favorite to start the season next to Rashean Mathis. That’s a good sign for the Lions, but he isn’t the only corner on the roster that needs to step up in a big way for the Lions. The 2011 draft class has a lot riding on it and the expectations should be that at least one of those corners plays a significant role in the upcoming season.