The Lions had a plan in place when it came to their cornerback position for the start of training camp on Thursday.
It was a good plan as long as Berry held up his end of the bargain and continued to improve into his new starting role.
Berry was looking good on the football field this offseason, unfortunately, he couldn’t stay out of trouble off of it. A second arrest in the last month prompted the Lions to release Berry on Monday, forcing the team into Plan B. We’ll find out exactly what Plan B is Friday when the team has it’s first training camp practice.
The Lions could move Lacey, who started 27 games the last three seasons with Colts, outside and have
The Lions also signed veteran
Whatever the Lions ultimately do, it certainly isn’t an ideal situation changing plans on the fly the week training camp begins. Especially considering how the team ended last year with losses to the Packers and Saints, when the unit didn’t play particularly well.
By the numbers:
62: Combined interceptions and sacks for the Lions defense in 2011, sixth-most in the NFL.
225: Interception return yards for Chris Houston, which is the fourth-most in team history.
5.94: Yards per pass play allowed by the Lions last year, ranking among the top-eight in the league.
It’s a whole new ball game for the Lions secondary now that Berry is no longer with the team. As it stands right now, the starting right cornerback spot is an open competition, as well as the starting nickel spot.
Expect Lacey to fill one of those spots, though it’s unclear which one at this point. Lacey’s strength is his physicality and tackling, which made him an ideal candidate to play the middle of the field in the nickel.
“The competition (for a starting spot) is open, but I wouldn’t mind getting inside and playing some nickel, too,” Lacey said this offseason. “I think my tackling can help the team and I’m going to come ready to tackle and I'm going to come and compete.”
The two most likely candidates to compete with Lacey for both spots are Smith and Bentley. Smith has eight interceptions in 24 games with the Lions over two seasons, but it’s been feast or famine with him. He’s made some terrific interceptions and returned two of those for touchdowns, but he’s also missed assignments and gambled with his eyes in the backfield allowing big plays behind him. Both head coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has been stressing consistency in Smith’s game. Now that a huge opportunity to start is sitting right in front of him, could we see a more disciplined and consistent Smith in camp?
“There are some guys coming back who really have an opportunity to step up for us,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said this offseason before Berry was released. “Alphonso Smith comes to mind.”
Bentley is an undersized cornerback at 5-foot-9, 182 pounds, but don’t mistake a lack of size to mean Bentley isn’t physical.
“He’s good,” receiver
Mayhew told the media after the Lions selected Bentley 85th overall that he didn’t see him as a small cornerback when they turned on the game tape.
"He will throw his body around – all 182 pounds of it, he throws it around," Mayhew said.
He’ll need to if he’s going to compete for the nickel spot.
Miller hasn’t played a regular season NFL game since 2009 (Jets), so it’s tough to tell where he’ll fit into the mix until training camp begins. Miller was a Pro Bowler in 2006 as a return specialist, and might see more time in that role initially.
Greenwood will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list, which is too bad because the Lions covet his physical traits. It’s unclear how long Greenwood will be out, but an extended absence would certainly hurt his chances to compete for playing time early in the season.
The team is also high on the physical style in which Green plays the game and he’ll get an opportunity to compete for playing time on defense as well as on special teams.
The Lions kept five corners on the 53-man roster out of camp last season, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they decided to keep six this season with Houston, Lacey, Smith, Miller and their three 2012 draft picks -- Bentley, Greenwood and Green – fighting for spots on the final 53-man roster.
Ross Weaver, who was a practice squad player for the Lions last season, and rookie Dontrell Johnson, will have to be impressive in camp and the preseason to work their way into the top six.
Player to watch:
Shortly after the Lions signed Lacey in free agency, Mayhew spoke to reporters at the NFL league meetings in Florida about the team’s newest cornerback.
"It's rare you talk to a corner and ask him, ‘What do you do best?' and he says, 'Tackle,’” Mayhew said.
"That's what Lacey told me when we sat down to talk. I like the way the guy plays. He's very physical. He's a really good zone defender. He has been a starter and started in big games and made big plays in big situations."
Lacey, 24, signed a one-year contract with the Lions this offseason after starting 27 games for the Colts over the last three seasons playing primarily left corner. He had 72 tackles and one interception in 15 games last season.
At this point, he’s the most experienced cornerback the Lions have outside of Houston, and is probably the best option the Lions have to fill Berry’s role.
The pads come on starting next week and it’ll be interesting to see how Lacey’s physical brand of football fits into the Lions’ man-cover scheme.