Chris Houston will be an integral part of the development and mentoring of Detroit's young corners

Posted May 24, 2013

With four young, drafted corners on the Lions' roster, veteran Chris Houston's role expands beyond the football field

One of the most impressive things about cornerback Chris Houston is his ability to combine humility and confidence in order to better himself on the football field.

When he was traded to Detroit by the Atlanta Falcons prior to the 2010 season, Houston was a player with lightning speed and average ball skills ... and he said as much.

Instead of pretending he had it all figured out, he worked at his craft without insecurity or overconfidence, and that matter-of-fact attitude helped him improve his way to a long-term deal with the Lions.

"I still feel like I have something to prove," said Houston in terms of being the Lions' No. 1 corner. "I won't feel like I'm No. 1 until people start to recognize that I can come out here and play with anybody in the league.

"So I just try to prove myself and go against Calvin (Johnson) every day. I try to learn our offense better and understand what teams what to do in certain coverages."

Battling Megatron practice after practice must have the same advantages to swimming laps fully clothed before a big race -- the rest of the league's wide receivers probably don't seem so bad come Sunday.

"He came in a very good corner; fast and very raw," said Johnson back in March. "Over the past years, I think it's just experience. Through experience you get better and you can definitely see that with him.

"I definitely get better from working with him every day and vice versa."

Houston finished his first season with the Lions with a modest one interception and one forced fumble, but followed that up with a five-interception, two-touchdown season in 2011.

Last season wasn't as fruitful, though he still finished with two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

"My role now is to come out here and show these young guys how I got to where I am now," he said, "and that's through working, studying in the classroom and then coming out and showing it on the field."

At the cornerback position, Houston and ninth-year veteran Ron Bartell stand as the lone veterans in a group that features four second-year players, two first-year players and one rookie.

Of those seven younger guys, four were drafted by the Lions the past two years: Bill Bentley (third - 2012), Chris Greenwood (fifth - 2012), Jonte Green (sixth - 2012) and Darius Slay (second - 2013).

Houston will be key in the development and mentoring of these younger players, who the Lions are counting on to produce in the fall, and each enters this season with a different reality.

Slay is still waiting to get on the field as he recovers from a minor knee procedure. His time observing practices instead of participating may serve him in a different way, however.

"He watches closely," said Houston of Slay. "I'm going to have to watch what I do around him to not give him anything negative to see. My work ethic is what he's looking at and I can see that."

Bentley played in four games last season with three starts, ultimately placed on injured-reserve due to a shoulder injury.

Jonte GreenCB Jonte Green with a play on WR Calvin Johnson. (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

"He's a fast learner and he's a good student of the game," said Houston. "He knows his weaknesses and his strengths and he's working on both of them."

Greenwood is a fascinating unknown, standing at 6-1 and 193 pounds.

"He's been here working on technique, doing everything in the weight room," said Houston. "I can't wait until he gets to the preseason and gets to go against other guys so I can really see what he has.

"That's all we're waiting for."

Green finished 2012 with by far the most experience, playing in 15 games with five starts.

Like Houston, Green is known for his speed, expected to grow in his technique.

"I just let him know that the classroom will help slow things down and he’ll be playing like he was in college," said Houston.

"Once he understands receivers, how they use different types of receivers in personnel, what quarterbacks look at and understands the defense, it will slow the game down for him and he'll make even more plays."