It's open competition within the Lions' secondary

Posted May 2, 2012

The one starter the Lions are missing off last year's 10-6 playoff team is cornerback Eric Wright, who left in free agency to sign with the Buccaneers.

Two and a half weeks into the offseason training program, and less than three months from training camp, Lions defensive backs and third down package coach Tim Walton says there's an open competition for that starting right cornerback job.

"I don't know who our starter is yet and I won't make that decision, they will," Walton told Wednesday.

"That's what the offseason is for. We'll see what guy steps up and wins it. It's competition every day. That's the good thing about it. The best player will play when that time comes at the end of training camp. We'll see who over the long haul has proven that they've earned the spot."

The list of candidates to fill that starting cornerback spot opposite Chris Houston grew by three over the weekend, with the drafting of cornerbacks Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green.

Walton said the rookies would certainly be in the mix to earn the job, along with veterans Aaron Berry, Jacob Lacey and Alphonso Smith.

"When you get into that (secondary) room, you're not a rookie anymore," Walton said. "When we put 11 guys out there on the field, no one cares that you're a rookie or if you're a fifth-year player. It's all equal at that point."

Berry has been in the system two years and filled in for Houston when he missed four games with a knee injury last season. Walton said he expects a lot of Berry this season, especially with the benefit of an offseason.

"The key for Berry is to stay healthy and strengthen the shoulder," he said. "That's going to be big for him because he's a heck of a football player. I think he's working on that stuff and if he can manage to play some games for us and hang in there, he'll do a great job for us next year."

Berry missed five games last year because of injury after missing most of his rookie season in 2010 with a shoulder injury.

The Lions signed Lacey as a free agent in March to compete for Wright's former spot. Lacey started 27 games for the Colts the past three seasons.

"He has toughness," Walton said of Lacey. "He tackles well. He plays the game hard and gives you great effort. He's a character kid, class act. I've enjoyed working with him so far and I look forward to getting a chance to see him on the field and see him get into action. He has position flexibility."

The Lions like the physical tools Bentley, Greenwood and Green bring to the group, as well. Their ability to be in the mix for that starting spot will come down to how well they pick up the scheme and adjust to the speed of the NFL, Walton said.

"They are all fast, they're athletic, they have ball skills," he said. "They all bring something to the table."

Walton welcomes the competition over the next seven weeks of the offseason training program and into training camp. It's not a secret the Lions struggled to defend the pass in losses to the Packers and Saints to end last season. The Lions needed to get healthy and add talent and depth.

Walton and the Lions are hoping the competition for the starting spot brings out the best of everyone involved and the entire unit gets better because of it.

"Everybody wants to play and everybody wants to start and everybody wants to compete," Walton said.

"It's an open competition and we'll see who comes out ahead. We hope to have a lot of guys in that mix that compete for it and have depth in the whole deal. We really don't look at one spot. We look at a collective group and trying to develop the entire back end. Guys that are versatile and multidimensional."