Did the Detroit Lions improve the cornerback position with the signing of free agents Rashaan Melvin and Justin Coleman? There is a reason to believe so.
The Detroit Lions secondary wasn’t as bad in 2018 as some would lead you to believe. Most reports say that Detroit’s corners are their biggest concern heading into the 2019 season.
I, for one, do not share this belief and neither should you. Yes, there were some rough spots throughout last season with Detroit’s cornerback group, but all together they actually played okay.
The Lions’ total defense ranked 16th in points allowed and 10th in yards given up to finish off the 2018 season, according to stat site pro-football-reference.com. Detroit’s pass defense was ranked eighth in yards allowed with 3,599 but ranked a disappointing 19th in touchdowns allowed, with 29. The unit stood strong for eighth in yards per game with 225, but was just 29th in interceptions with a lowly seven, per NFL.com
As we can see, there was some room for improvement in Detroit’s secondary. The Lions started this offseason by releasing veteran corner, Nevin Lawson. Lawson appeared in 15 games with 14 starts in 2018. The seasoned cornerback registered five passes defended, zero interceptions, and 43 tackles for Detroit in 2018.
Lion’s slot corner Jamal Agnew went down early last season with a knee injury, which would land him on injured reserve. Detroit really didn’t have any answers to fill Agnew’s slot corner role as multiple players were plugged into the role with little to no success.
Detroit signed a couple more former New England Patriots in free agent cornerback Rashaan Melvin (presumably to start outside opposite of two-time Pro Bowler, Darius Slay) and a top-five slot corner in Justin Coleman.
As Coleman is a sure upgrade in the slot, it’s not so clear whether Melvin is an upgrade over Lawson on the outside. The Lions brought Rashaan in from Oakland in the hopes of reviving the shutdown corner production that the Indianapolis Colts had seen from him in 2017.
Detroit also drafted cornerback Amani Oruwariye out of Penn State with their fifth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Oruwariye was thought to be a third-round talent by many, so Detroit may have gotten a steal there. The rookie looks to be pretty solid but will need to address his footwork in order to keep up with some of the faster receivers around the league.
I realize that the Detroit Lions’ cornerbacks aren’t the strongest positional group in the league, but they are better off than some reports give them credit for. Last season, this cornerback group finished the season right around the middle of the pack. In my humble opinion, the Lions have done as good of a job of upgrading this group in the offseason. Detroit is beginning to trend upwards and 2019 should be an exciting season in the Motor City.