Size could be a difference maker for cornerbacks Greenwood and Green

Posted Jun 3, 2012

The drafting of cornerback Chris Greenwood in the fifth round of the NFL Draft this year and Jonte Green in the sixth round gives the Lions something they haven’t had at the position since head coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham took over in 2009 – size.

Greenwood and Green, 6-foot-1 and 6-foot, respectively, have great size heading into an NFL weight training program.

The Lions struggled to stay healthy at the position last season and injuries were a big factor in their late-season collapse against some of the league's elite passing offenses. Chris Houston and Aaron Berry, the early favorites to start at cornerback this season, either missed, or were less than 100-percent, in 10 games combined last season.

Size doesn’t always translate to durability, but it doesn’t ever hurt to be bigger and stronger in this league.

“Defensive backs in general get hurt more than any other position and I think it’s because those guys need to be so athletic and those guys can’t get too big to play,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. “So, injuries are a fact of life in (the secondary).” 

While every other position in the NFL has gotten bigger, faster and stronger over the years, cornerbacks have generally stayed the same size. That’s why coaches are starting to covet bigger cornerbacks who show the same athleticism as their smaller counterparts.

There’s a reason Carlos Rogers (6-0, 192) and Brandon Carr (6-0, 207) were two of the most coveted free agent cornerbacks this offseason.

Greenwood and Green are still wet behind the ears and aren’t expected to make an immediate impact at cornerback for the Lions this season. But their size certainly has the Lions excited.

“He’s got height, he’s got speed; his athleticism was something that really attracted us,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said of Greenwood after the Lions took him 148th overall in the draft. “A lot of guys are big and fast. This guy’s movement and his skill level, his feet, quickness, all that stuff, this guy is a really, really good athlete.”

Schwartz said the same kind of things about Green.

“We liked his combination of size, speed and aggressiveness,” Schwartz said. “He’s an aggressive tackler.”

The Lions have good cover corners in Houston, Berry, Jacob Lacey, Alphonso Smith and rookie Bill Bentley, but Greenwood and Green might eventually have a higher ceiling because of their size.

“Gunther was in Kansas City when they drafted Brandon Carr and he thought that this guy kind of reminded him of that process,” Mayhew said of Greenwood. “Brandon Carr, obviously a Grand Valley kid. So (Greenwood) is a guy we really like.”