Lions see Wright's value at the nickel corner position

Posted Feb 29, 2012

The Lions have said publicly they'd like to re-sign cornerback Eric Wright and Wright said after the season he thought the Lions were a good fit for his talents and he'd like to come back.

It's never usually that easy when it actually comes time to get a contract signed, but Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine last week that he planned on meeting with Wright's agent and hoped a deal could get done to bring the five-year veteran back.

Wright started all 16 games last season for the Lions and finished with 74 tackles, four interceptions and led the team with 16 passes defended.

He was solid for most of the year, but struggled toward the end of the season when the Lions played better passing attacks and weren't as effective rushing the passer. He had a particularly rough game at New Orleans in the Lions' first match-up with the Saints when he gave up a long touchdown and a few other big plays.

Wright probably played his best football all season when he was moved inside on nickel coverage.

When the Lions went into the nickel, which is when they replace a linebacker with a cornerback in passing situations, they moved Wright inside and played nickel corner Aaron Berry on the outside.

"He's pretty good inside because he's physical and can tackle," Mayhew said when asked if Wright is better inside or outside. "Inside, there's a lot going on. You have to be keyed in to your run keys and pass keys, so there's a lot more happening inside.

"You have a lot of different responsibilities. You're blitzing one time, you may be in man coverage, sometimes you run with motion, sometimes you don't, so there's a lot more thought process that goes on inside and he handled that pretty well for us."

Wright is an instinctive player and seems to be much more comfortable working in the middle of the field.

Mayhew played the slot cornerback position during his playing days and knows how important the position is to a defense.

"I think it's always been an important position, but people talk about it being more important now," he said. "You have a lot more zone blitzes and things like that defensively, so it requires a little bit more thought, I think.

"It's always been an important position on your defense because that guy has to play run and pass and that guy has to be tuned in the whole game."

The Lions were very good in nickel coverage this season with Wright inside and excelled on third down. The Lions allowed opponents to convert just 33 percent of the time on third down, which ranked third in the NFL.

If the Lions sign another cornerback via free agency or draft one with the purpose of him playing outside, there's still a valuable role for Wright on the inside.