In what will be an ongoing series, I will be taking a look at each position on the Detroit Lions roster and examine where things stand, who has the best shot at making the final 53-man roster, and whether or not they improved in this area. Next up, cornerback.
As a rookie, Slay dealt with some early struggles and saw himself benched more than once. Cornerback is one of the toughest positions to play, especially in today’s NFL, so it came as no surprise to see Slay’s early woes.
This year Slay will be relied upon to be the #1 starting cornerback for the Detroit Lions. No pressure or anything.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin did a fine job developing guys like Jimmy Smith, Matt Elam and Ladarius Webb during his stint as the Baltimore Ravens secondary coach, so here’s to hoping he can duplicate that success in Detroit.
Chances of making final roster: 100% (#1 CB)
With injuries taking their toll and the cornerback position looking like a proverbial revolving door last year, Rashean Mathis may have been the most consistent and reliable corner, especially towards the end of the year.
Mathis was the only CB with over 100 snaps to receive a positive grade (+6.2) via Pro Football Focus for the Lions last year.
The Lions are standing on thin ice with their current situation at cornerback, and as of right now, Mathis has to be the safest option to start opposite Slay. There is very little job security for many of these corners, so look out for some high intensity position battles during camp.
Chances of making final roster: 95% (#2 CB)
With cornerback prospects sliding down draft boards during the 2014 NFL Draft, fans were begging the Lions front office to select a tall physical corner that could help shore up the Lions’ secondary.
Instead, Martin Mayhew and co. selected Nevin Lawson, a 5-foot-9 cornerback out of Utah State late in the fourth-round.
Many were upset with the pick originally, but the complaints were mostly baseless, because no one really knew anything about Lawson.
Let me be the first to tell you that I’m extremely excited about this pick. Lawson is a fervent and physical player despite his size, and has the confidence that defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is looking for in a cornerback.
Austin believes that Lawson can be the playmaker the Lions desperately need.
Chances of making final roster: 80% (will be worked in as an outside corner, and also in nickel packages)
The developmental process for young corners typically take up to three years. That means it’s make or break for Bill Bentley, entering his third season as a Lion.
As a rookie, Bentley really impressed coaches like former defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, and ascended to the top of the depth chart behind Chris Houston, winning the #2 cornerback spot. Unfortunately for him, that was cut short early into the 2012 season after injuring his shoulder three separate times, forcing him to have season-ending shoulder surgery.
Since then, Bentley has been the Lions’ go-to guy in nickel packages, but hasn’t really performed as well as they had hoped for.
With rookie corner Nevin Lawson coming in looking to steal his job, Bentley will need to amp up the intensity in hopes of staying on the 53-man roster.
Chances of making final roster: 70% (favorite to win slot corner position, for now)
After signing a one-year deal with the Lions in early April of this year, Cassius Vaughn has wasted little time impressing the new coaching staff.
“He’s a guy that loves to play — and he loves to tell you about it once in a while as he’s playing,” coach Jim Caldwell said with a smile. “But nevertheless, he’s a guy that’s working extremely hard trying to win a spot on this team. He does bring some energy.” -via MLive.com
That quote from Caldwell happened after a practice consisting of Vaughn taking an interception to the house, breaking up a few more passes, and also chasing down Jeremy Ross to prevent a touchdown.
If Vaughn can transfer some of that energy into training camp, he has a great opportunity at not only making the 53-man roster, but making a big impact during the regular season.
(Fun fact: Vaughn was fined $7,875 for a late hit on Lions running back Reggie Bush in Week 9 of 2012)
Chances of making final roster: 60% (depth cornerback)
Next Page: Aaron Hester, Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood, Mohammed Seisey