Detroit Lions: Is Josh Wilson a Starter or Stopgap?


The Detroit Lions bolstered their cornerback numbers by signing Josh Wilson to a one-year free agent deal, but did they actually get better?  It’s hard to get excited about the signing of a 30-year old cornerback coming off the worst season of his career, as graded by Pro Football Focus.

The free agent market showed an obvious preference for cornerbacks under 30-years old, but as we’ve seen with Rashean Mathis, age can be just a number. The secondary was expected to be a weakness last season but the whole defense turned out to be the team’s strength under defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. The hope is that Wilson can be his next reclamation project and stabilize the nickelback position.

Wilson’s career looks to be on a definite downward trend, but he has had some productive seasons. Here is his career summary of grades from Pro Football Focus:

YearTeamSnapsPFF Grade

While Austin had stops on the defensive coaching staffs of the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens, neither tenure lined up with Josh Wilson’s time on either team. Austin had moved on to the Arizona Cardinals in 2007 and didn’t arrive in Baltimore until 2011, missing an overlap with Wilson by just one year in both spots.

The gaudy grade for the 2010 season with the Ravens is cause for optimism, but that optimism has to rely on belief in the general Ravens attitude and system than direct work with Teryl Austin.

Expectations should be low as Wilson will have to earn a spot on the roster during training camp. Even so, at worst he gives the Lions another option to play the nickel after Bill Bentley and Nevin Lawson combined for fewer than 70 defensive snaps last season because of injuries. The clock is ticking for Bentley who has appeared in just 18 games in his three NFL seasons as he has battled injuries and Cassius Vaughn has not been re-signed.

The Lions should be looking for a cornerback early in the 2015 NFL Draft but that figures to be a bigger corner who can play on the outside to pair with Darius Slay as an eventual replacement for Rashean Mathis. With options limited to address the nickelback position, the Lions are left to hope for a healthy season from an incumbent and/or a bounceback year from Josh Wilson.

Next: Lions Should Admit They’re Chasing Packers

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