Ennis Rakestraw dabbling in unexpected role at Lions rookie minicamp

It's not too surprising overall, but Lions rookie cornerback Ennis Rakestraw lined up in an unexpected role to start rookie minicamp.

He's coming off core muscle surgery during his final college season at Missouri, and a groin injury cut his performance at the NFL Combine short. So Lions' cornerback Ennis Rakestraw will be a bit limited during this weekend's rookie minicamp. He was on the field for 11-on-11 to start Friday's first workout session, and according to all observers on the ground at Allen Park he lined up in the slot.

Rakestraw was primarily an outside corner in his career at Missouri, but he played a little over 100 snaps in the slot last season (according to Pro Football Focus) and he told reporters it's a spot he's plenty comfortable playing.

"That’s how I played my freshman year as a starter,” Rakestraw said. “I started at nickel and I started at corner, so to me, that’s just my home.”

There's plenty of competition at outside corner for the Lions. In a broad sense where someone lines up for snaps at rookie minicamp may not prove meaningful come Week 1, and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has (however obviously) cross-trained defensive backs at multiple positions during his tenure. But Rakestraw may not start, so the more he can do the better.

Ennis Rakestraw seems to have skill set and mindset to thrive as a slot corner

To play nickel/slot corner effectively, you have to be able to cover, diagnose/ react quickly and be willing to mix it up against the run. Rakestraw had a 89.0 run defense grade from PFF last season, which was 11th-best among college cornerbacks. He had just three missed tackles last season, and over the last two seasons PFF credited him with 25 "stops", defined as a "failure for the offense."

Rakestraw has the skill set that befits a slot corner, with quick feet and change of direction ability that was noted by those present at rookie minicamp.

If his words about being a "tone setter" for the Lions' defense right after he was drafted mean anything, Rakestraw certainly has the mentality for the slot corner role too (h/t to SI.com).

"I call myself the tone-setter,” Rakestraw told reporters. “Our defense used to call me the firecracker of the team because yeah, I’m a corner. But, I’ll come up and set that edge and hit you like a linebacker.” 

Saturday and Sunday's rookie minicamp practices were closed to the media, but Rakestraw presumably saw/will see some time in the slot again.

The Lions have talked about getting Brian Branch more time at safety this season. So there's a potential opportunity for someone to take over a good chunk of slot/nickel snaps and make an impact. That someone could be Rakestraw.


Next. 5 free agent edge rushers Detroit Lions should have on their radar. 5 free agent edge rushers Detroit Lions should have on their radar. dark