Position Preview: Cornerbacks

Posted Jul 25, 2013

The Lions will have decisions to make at cornerback alongside Chris Houston, and Tim Twentyman says they have the talent and depth to make it a stiff competition

It’s been a long time since the Lions had both talent and depth in the secondary. At least on paper the Lions seem to finally have a nice mix of experience and youthful talent in the backend of their defense.

The Lions have some decisions to make at cornerback after Chris Houston, but it’s nice to have options and competition.

We continue our preview of Detroit Lions training camp with a look at the cornerbacks.


Ron Bartell 6-1 210 31 9 Howard
Bill Bentley 5-10 176 24 2 Louisiana-Lafayette
Jonte Green 6-0 184 23 2 New Mexico State
Chris Greenwood 6-1 193 24 2 Albion
Chris Houston 5-11 178 28 7 Arkansas
Domomique Johnson 6-1 191 27 5 Jackson State
DeQuan Menzie 5-11 202 23 1 Alabama
Darius Slay 6-1 192 22 R Mississippi State
Ross Weaver 6-1 210 26 1 Michigan State


Ron Bartell (w/ Det & Oak) 27 0 4 0
Bill Bentley 15 0 0 0
Jonte Green 29 1 4 0
Chris Greenwood – Did not play in game –
Chris Houston 56 2 11 2
Domomique Johnson (w/ Wash) 8 0 0 0
DeQuan Menzie (w/ KC) – Did not play in game –
Darius Slay (college) 40 5 11 0
Ross Weaver – Did not play in game –


7: Different cornerback combinations that started games for the Lions in 2012.
1-8: The Lions record last season in games they did not record an interception. They were 1-3 when they had at least one; 2-0 when they recorded at least two and 0-1 in the one game (Colts) they recorded three.
1,870: Yards after the catch allowed by the Lions defense last season, which ranked 23rd in the league.


The good: The Lions started seven different combinations of cornerbacks and lost their No. 2 corner (Bill Bentley) after just four games and still managed to rank 14th against the pass. That’s hamming and egging pretty well. Opponents recorded only 167 passing first downs, which ranked the Lions among the top four in the league with the Bears, 49ers and Texans.
The bad: One of the real problems for this defense last year was their inability to force turnovers. The Lions recorded only 11 interceptions in 2012. Only six teams had fewer. The Lions had 21 and ranked No. 5 in the NFL in 2011. It’s not a coincidence they also won 10 games that year.
The fix:

The team has made a conscientious effort to get bigger, faster and more athletic at the cornerback position over the last couple seasons. The hope is that those players can match up better against the more physical receivers in the league and also stand up better to the run.

The Lions had three cornerbacks who stood at least six-foot tall on the roster for their first preseason game last year vs. Cleveland and one of those, Chris Greenwood, was on PUP. Fast forward one year and the Lions will enter training camp in 2013 with double that amount (six).

The Lions are longer, faster and more athletic at the position. They’re hoping that lends itself to having more hands on footballs in the secondary.


"I don’t know if he knows he’s in the NFL or not. That is a good thing, trust me. He has no conscience. That may be the number one criteria for any corner you want on your team. He doesn’t let things bother him. He is very sharp and he was really well coached in college. I understand his position coach went to Auburn after this year, and rightfully so. He’s well schooled and he’s touched the ball a lot (in OTAs and mini-camp). He’s had about three interceptions since he’s come out, maybe four, knocked a couple balls down. So, we’ll see. Again, Ziggy (Ansah) needs pads, Darius needs pads."

-- Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham on rookie second-round pick cornerback Darius Slay.


Chris Houston, Darius SlayCornerbacks Chris Houston and Darius Slay

No one was happier to see Chris Houston sign a new five-year, $25 million contract than defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. The Lions now have a solid No. 1 cornerback and will be looking for someone to step up and fill the right cornerback spot and the nickel and dime spots. That's better than the proposition Cunningham was looking at before Houston signed.

Slay and Bentley will compete for a starting spot along with Bartell, who’s a steady veteran. The Lions drafted Slay for a reason and he's got a great shot to win the job.

Bentley was a playmaker when healthy last year and he's shown some of that this spring, too. He gets hands on footballs. That might suit him very well inside in the nickel.

Greenwood and Green provide a lot of upside and very good depth. Who knows, maybe one of them can step up and push the others for time. Green got lots of playing time last season (three starts) and plays a physical brand of football. Greenwood is the most physically gifted of the group, but also the most raw.

The Lions kept six corners on the roster last season and four safeties. Will we see the same formula or will the team opt to keep an extra safety?

Houston, Slay, Bentley, Bartell, Greenwood and Green are the top six on the depth chart right now.

Can Johnson, Weaver or Menzie do enough to get noticed? Johnson is a big body (6-1, 191) and made some plays this spring.

There are still some question marks with the group, but it's nice to finally see depth and options out wide in the back end of that defense.