Three cornerback draft picks trying to adjust to speed of NFL

Posted May 11, 2012

We all remember how easy quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Drew Brees made passing the football look against the Lions at the end of last season.

Flynn earned himself a nice free agent contract thanks to the Lions' secondary and Brees had little trouble performing his brand of surgery on the unit.

The Lions knew they had to get more talented and better depth at the position and went out and signed Jacob Lacey in free agency and drafted three cornerbacks.

The team got their first look at draft picks Bill Bentley (third round), Chris Greenwood (fifth round) and Jonte Green (six round) during Friday's first practice of a three-day rookie mini-camp in Allen Park.

"I don't know if you guys have ever been down to the Senior Bowl, but the first day of Senior Bowl practice, you almost have to discount it a little bit," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said.

"The quarterback-center exchange, the wide receiver-quarterback timing, defensive backs … the first day, not many people look real good, then all of the sudden you'll see them start to get their feet under them so to speak and you'll see them sort of figure it out a little bit.

"All three of those guys showed the athletic ability that got them drafted, but they've all got a long way to go, just understanding the whole defense and where their help is and how they're expected to cover and just doing things a little different than they did in college."

Bentley and Greenwood looked the most polished in drills, which should be expected of the top two players drafted at the position. The two were paired up for most of the individual drills and played together for the better part of practice.

Bentley (5-10, 176) predicates his game on speed and instincts and was touted as one of the best cover corners in the draft.

"First day was a little fast," Bentley said. "A lot different than college. I have to pick up on the game speed and I think I'll be okay. It'll be much faster when the veterans come in."

Greenwood (6-1, 193) and has a rare combination of size and speed uncommon for the position.

"Chris is a very talented guy," Schwartz said of Greenwood. "His head's swimming just like a big school player, but athletically he really belongs and it'll be fun to watch him progress."

Greenwood didn't look like he was having any trouble adjusting from Division III to the NFL, though it was only rookies he was covering.

"It's exciting," Greenwood said. "I know what they're expecting of me and that's to come in and pick up on the techniques and learn and play hard."

Bentley and Greenwood might play the same position, but physically, the two are quite different. They do share one similarity, though: they are both trying to make the transition to the NFL from small schools. Bentley played at Louisiana-Lafayette and Greenwood at Division III Albion College.

"I don't know what a small-school guy is once they get out there," Schwartz said.

Bentley, Greenwood, Green (6-0, 184) and the rest of the rookies will join the veterans in the offseason training program next week and will be on the practice field for the team's first OTA practice May 21.

"Their heads are all swimming right now; we've thrown a lot at them," Schwartz said of his rookie cornerbacks. "If they roll up against Calvin Johnson (at OTA practice) they're going to have to be ready. So they've got a lot of work ahead of them these next two weeks."

Greenwood vs. Johnson, Bentley vs. Johnson and Green vs. Johnson for the first time in practice might draw a few eyes.

The Lions have a vacancy at one of the starting cornerback spots after Eric Wright left in free agency and defensive backs and third down package coach Tim Walton says the job is an open competition.

The NFL throws a lot at these rookies the first weekend, but first impressions are that Bentley, Greenwood and Green all belong here.