Will depth at corner continue to be an issue for the Lions?

Posted Aug 27, 2012

The Lions’ early exit from the playoffs last year was mostly due to a lack of consistency, health and depth in the secondary - will it be the case again this season?

There was a weird sensation of Déjà vu watching Saturday night’s preseason loss to the Raiders in Oakland.

It’s been less than eight months since the Packers and Saints took turns having a field day against a battered and bruised Lions secondary at the end of last season.

The Lions were again licking some wounds in the secondary Saturday night in Oakland, and Raiders quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Terrelle Pryor took advantage in an eerily similar manner.

The Lions’ early exit from the playoffs last year was mostly due to a lack of consistency, health and depth in the secondary.

When starting cornerback Chris Houston and starting safety Louis Delmas suffered knee injuries Week 11 against the Packers, and then cornerback Aaron Berry went down two weeks later with a shoulder injury against the Vikings, the Lions were ill prepared from a depth standpoint to handle those injuries.

It seemed the case again on Saturday.

Delmas did not play in Oakland as he continues to rehab from knee surgery performed on Aug. 7. His timetable for return is still considered week-to-week.

Houston left the game with an ankle injury and rookie Bill Bentley, who started at right cornerback, left with a shoulder injury. Once Houston and Bentley left the game, the Raiders passing game started to heat up.

  • Palmer hit receiver Darius Heyward-Bey over the top of Lions corner Justin Miller for 41 yards down the right sideline in the second quarter.
  • Pryor threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Juron Criner early in the fourth quarter over Alphonso Smith. Smith was also called for pass inference on the play. Smith did have an interception in the game that was called back on a holding call.
  • Pryor later went up top to Criner once again for a 76-yard touchdown over rookie sixth-round pick Jonte Green.

Miller, Smith and Green are the primary backups to the Lions' top three corners: Houston, Bentley and Jacob Lacey.

It begs the question. Are the Lions any better equipped this year to handle injuries in the secondary, especially at cornerback?

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said Monday when asked that very question.

“Every year you plan to be. Whether or not you can execute it or not is a lot like executing a game plan. If everything goes according to game plan, you’d score every time and hold them every time. It doesn’t always go as planned.

“You know it’s funny, when healthy we have a lot more depth. But right now we’re battling some injuries back there. We’ll see. We’re still a couple weeks from the opener and it’s a long season. Sixteen weeks and there’s a lot of different things that can happen.”

After a full offseason and three-fourths of the preseason completed, it seems the Lions might be in a similar position they were last year.

Maybe that’s why reports surfaced Monday about the Lions trading for Redskins cornerback Kevin Barnes, which was first reported by the Washington Examiner.

It’s Lions policy not to comment on impending transactions until a physical has been performed, which has not happened yet. If Barnes does join the roster, he adds a bit more depth and starting experience to the unit. Something it appears they could use more of.

The Lions weren’t scheming against the Raiders, instead playing more quarters and single-high and man-to-man coverage, according to Schwartz, to see how their corners could perform in those situations.

“We’ve done well at times, other times we haven’t played our best,” Schwartz said of the secondary this preseason.

Schwartz always says that it’s not about how his team responds “if” injuries happen, but rather how they respond “when” they happen. The Lions responded poorly at the end of last year. They responded poorly again on Saturday.

It seems they still have some work to do to shore up their depth at cornerback and it wouldn't be surprising if Lions general manager Martin Mayhew isn’t done trying to acquire talent there.