Wade Competing as Part of Detroit's Young Secondary

Posted May 10, 2010

When cornerback Jonathan Wade came to Detroit, what he was looking for was a team that would be up front with him.

“If I don’t have a chance to really start or really play, tell me,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking for, regardless of which team I’m with. I’m looking for an opportunity to show that I can play.”

Wade spent his first three seasons in St. Louis, selected in the third round (84th-overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.

He played in all 32 games with two starts over his first two seasons, moving to the top of the depth chart in 2009. After starting four games, however, Wade was taken out of the starting line-up.

Players can sometimes fall victim to coaching changes, which can also bring changes in philosophy and scheme. Wade feels that was what happened last season.

“People handle situations differently,” he said. “I handled mine by continuing to going to work and hoping everything would turn around at some point.”

Ultimately, Wade found himself on the free agent market following the season and started looking for a team that would allow him to compete for a job.

He chose Detroit – a team in the process of building up its defense.

“It’s a young, unproven group,” said Wade of the secondary. “That means the hard work is there, which is a good thing. As opposed to having a group full of veterans who have done it and they know how to do it when it’s time to do it, it’s a group that knows we’re not where we want to be. No one in the room is.

“It’s a young group. A young, hungry, feisty group.”

Wade did cite the veteran amongst the young players, Marquand Manuel, who signed with Detroit last season.

“He helps everybody with everything,” said Wade. “You would think the scheme and the defense was his the way he knows it. It helps everybody out a tremendous amount.”

Despite the positive energy amongst Lions’ defensive backs, the tension of competition still exists. Players know jobs are available for the taking, which means things could get even more intense as training camp draws closer.

“It’s tense now – it is for me,” said Wade. “I’ve been fighting all my life to prove myself. It’s, ‘You’re too little, you’re too small, you’re a track guy.’

“I’ve just been fighting to prove people wrong and I feel like I’m somewhat comfortable with the person that I almost made myself into mentally. It’s a fight.”

He attributes the process he is currently in to any job out there, saying that, “If a person doesn’t wake up and clock in on time, eventually someone that’s hungrier for that job will come in and they’ll be clocking in on time.”

Knowing the hard work and dedication it takes to set himself apart from the rest, Wade is focused on studying film and asking questions of both his teammates and position coaches.

He has spoken with wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, planning to ask Jefferson what he sees from Wade on film.

“I want to know what they look at when they see me,” he said. “That way I know what other people are looking at when they see me and I can get a feel for how they attack me.

“We’re at a disadvantage playing corner, so we need every piece of advice; every little trick or tip that we can get.”

Wade has also talked with wide receiver Calvin Johnson about technique, but admits there is a definite downside to doing so.

“You know what? I don’t like talking Calvin,” Wade joked. “I do, but it’s like dealing with someone who’s just abnormally bigger than everybody. The things that he can do – he can put you in a difficult predicament.”

Though the Rams visited Detroit last season, Wade says the true strength and talent of Johnson doesn’t translate across film. It takes actually practicing with him on a daily basis to truly get a firm grasp on what he is capable of.

“He is a monster,” said Wade. “He’s really that big and he’s really that fast and he’s as good as you think, which doesn’t happen a lot. You see a lot of people and they have a (big) name, but it’s not really quite that.

“But he’s as good as you hear, which I’m learning each and every day.”

Wade will undoubtedly continue to talk to Johnson and the other Lions’ receivers to get as much help as he can in addition to his regular work with the secondary and his position coaches.

He simply wants to learn to give himself the best possibly opportunity to earn playing time come September.

“I try to make sure that I listen and take advice as if I don’t know anything,” he said. “Obviously I don’t know enough. I haven’t done enough, so everything that I’m being told is gold to me at this point in my life.

“I’m learning through the years, just be quiet and listen. God gives us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.”