Grading the 2014 Detroit Lions: Taking A Closer Look At the Defense

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Dec 14, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay (23) runs onto the field before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports


Darius Slay: A. Developmentally, Slay took a huge step with a very solid 2014 season. Many felt the Lions were taking an unneeded risk releasing Chris Houston, but Slay played up to that level and more in his second season in the league collecting 61 tackles, two interceptions and defending 17 passes. There’s plenty to like moving forward, and it appears the Lions have locked down one of their cornerback spots for the future with a solid younger option.

Rashean Mathis: B+. Quietly, the veteran Mathis played at an extremely high level again in 2014, collecting 51 tackles and intercepting one pass. At this point in his career, it’s positive for Mathis to be seen as anything other than an aging liability. He still packs a punch in run defense on the edges and has been an excellent tutor for Slay. Reportedly, Mathis wants to return to Detroit. That’s a move the team will have to consider given his solid 2014 season after coming back later in camp.

Cassius Vaughn: C-. It was an up and down season for Vaughn, who gave up his share of big plays at times in the secondary and struggled to produce statistically. It’s hard to imagine that someone, be it a free agent or draft pick, couldn’t surpass Vaughn before next season and take his place on the team. If there was a weak link in this group, it was certainly Vaughn at times.

Bill Bentley: Incomplete. Bentley tore his ACL early in the year, and was lost as a result. That was unfortunate, as it would have been interesting to see what he could have given the defense. As a result, he can’t collect a grade.

Nevin Lawson: Incomplete. Like Bentley, the rookie Lawson was lost and shelved with an injury early on, never seeing the field during the season.

Next: Grading the Offense