Entering the 2014 season, the Detroit Lions figured they’d be able to count on Chris Houston to fill a spot in their defensive backfield. When Houston was released thanks mostly to his stubborn injury recovery, that didn’t happen.
Now, the Lions are in an interesting situation. Without Houston, the oldest member of the secondary is Rashean Mathis, who is 33. Otherwise, the Lions have a host of young players competing for spots that are relatively unknown commodities, including Darius Slay, last year’s second-round pick.
Camp is barely a week old, but already general manager Martin Mayhew is talking about the cornerback position as if it’s the important spot to watch not just during the preseason, but during the early part of the year as well.
MLive’s Justin Rogers has more details.
“(Slay’s) got to even out his performance,” Mayhew said. “He had some plays last year where he looked really good, like he belonged. He made some big-time plays for us, but other times, he looked like a rookie. So he’s got to even out his performance. Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood, Jonte Green, Nevin Lawson, those guys are guys who have got to play good football for us.”
As Mayhew also acknowledged using the Houston case as a prime example, things happen fast in football, meaning that external upgrades will continue to be a part of the discussion throughout camp and the preseason.
“We’re always trying to get our football team better—defensive backs, linebackers, defensive line, offensive line, every position,” Mayhew said. “We’re talking to people around the league about making moves and trades and are trying to upgrade all of the time.”
With money tight, who’s the best player left in free agency? In the eyes of most, it would have to be Asante Samuel. Samuel, who has two rings from his time in New England, is a veteran as well, and could be the type of personality in addition to Mathis that helps Detroit’s backfield pull everything together if added.
With Samuel in the fold, the Lions would have a pair of veterans to rely on to help tutor Slay, Lawson, Green and Greenwood. Adding another veteran would allow Detroit to have a true competition for roster inclusion, where play would matter most of all between the youngsters, and nothing was guaranteed.
Best for the Lions, Samuel probably wouldn’t cost much, given he is on the downswing of his career and struggled with injuries in 2013 with the Atlanta Falcons. Considering the younger bodies already in Detroit, there would be no need for him to play a starring role. Leadership and good play in spots would be enough of a positive.
Don’t count on any roster turnover to happen fast, but if Samuel remains available and the Lions aren’t wowed by what they have, they might need to give the veteran a call.