LIONS INSIDER

2017 training camp preview: Cornerback

Posted Jul 17, 2017

Tim Twentyman previews the cornerback position heading into training camp.

On roster: Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Quandre Diggs, DJ Hayden, Teez Tabor, Jamal Agnew, Johnson Bademosi, Adairius Barnes, Des Lawrence, Josh Thornton

Key losses: None

Making cut: Slay, Lawson, Tabor, Hayden

On bubble: Diggs, Agnew, Bademosi, Barnes, Lawrence, Thornton

Best competition(s): Who starts opposite Slay on the outside? Who starts in the slot?

The only lock right now for a starting spot is Slay.

Lawson started all 16 games on the outside last year in his first full season as a starter. He held his own and is now looking to get his hands on more footballs and become more of a playmaker. He’s a physical corner for his size and has the right mental makeup.

Tabor was the team’s second-round pick this year and the Lions like his size, physicality, instincts and ball skills. He made some plays in the spring and summer, but his game can’t truly be measured until the contact begins in training camp. If his lack of straight-line speed isn’t an issue, he’s got as good a chance as anyone to win a starting spot.

Speed isn’t an issue with Hayden, but durability has been. He’s played in more than 11 games in a season just once in his first four years in the league. He’s a versatile corner and was a free agent target for the Lions.

On the inside, Diggs suffered through a bit of a sophomore slump in the slot before a pectoral injury cut his season short. Diggs started in the slot during OTAs and minicamp, but rookie fifth-round pick Jamal Agnew will try and push him for a roster spot and playing time.

Agnew boasts 4.3 speed and had a knack for getting his hands on the ball in college. He recorded a school-record 48 pass breakups in college. He can also return punts, which gives him a roster edge if he ultimately wins that role.

Hayden could also earn time inside. He shifted from the outside to the slot exclusively last season and played well there until a hamstring injury ended his year.

Let’s just say there’s a lot up for grabs at the position in training camp, which should make every drill and every rep that much more interesting to watch.

2016 stats
PlayerGamesTackIntPDEFFF
Darius Slay 13 44 2 13 1
Nevin Lawson 16 57 0 9 0
Quandre Diggs 12 44 0 1 1
DJ Hayden^ 11 37 0 6 1
Teez Tabor* 12 33 3 6 0
Jamal Agnew* 12 31 2 13 0
Johnson Bademosi 16 19 1 5 0
Adairius Barnes 7 7 0 0 0
Des Lawrence* 12 37 0 8 0
Josh Thornton* 11 38 3 11 1
^ with OAK     * college stats

Twentyman’s take: The additions of Tabor, Hayden and Agnew give the Lions the most depth they’ve had at the position in years.

All the talk about Tabor’s lack of timed speed heading into the NFL Draft didn’t really materialize on the field in OTAs and the minicamp. He could run with Marvin Jones Jr. and was even able to make a few plays. He’s an instinctive player, and that can’t be taught.

Hayden and Agnew bring sub 4.4 speed to that secondary, as well as experience. Hayden has 25 starts under his belt for the Raiders and Agnew was a four-year starter in college.

I like the fact that Lawson and Diggs will be pushed for their starting spots in camp. That competition is real and should be fierce. In the end, it should make all parties involved better players.

This should be the best collection of talent, experience and youth the Lions have had at cornerback in years.  

By the numbers:

5: The Lions led the NFL last season with five interceptions in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. Four of those came in games that were within a seven-point margin at the time of the pick.

106.5: Opponents’ passer rating playing against the Lions defense last season, which ranked 32nd in the NFL.

4-2: Detroit’s record last season when allowing a 300-yard passer.

Quotable: “I love (the cornerback room),” Slay said this offseason. “We’re going to build together and grow together.

“It’s going to be a very, very competitive room, but we all love each other. We know it’s a business, but we’re all out here to get each other better.”