Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham walked into the locker room earlier this week, grabbed a stool and sat next to rookie cornerback Jonté Green. The two huddled close together and talked for approximately 10 minutes over the blaring sound of music in the background before Cunningham stood up, slapped Green on the back and walked away.
“It’s good that Gun has been coming over and talking with me and making sure I’m on the right track and I’m on the right page,” Green said of the conversation. “He’s telling me that there’s a lot of good things he’s seen from me but I have to keep fighting and keep pushing every play.”
Green, the team's sixth-round pick in April’s NFL Draft, has all the physical tools the Lions covet in a young cornerback. He has good size (6-foot, 184 pounds) and is one of the fastest players on the team. But Green is finding out that technique is just as important as the physical tools at the NFL level. Which is what Cunningham and head coach Jim Schwartz have been stressing to their rookie cornerback.
“Well, Green is fast, you can see that every day,” Cunningham said. “He’s really fast. I’d like to know his top-end speed because he can run with all the receivers easily.
“What he lacks is some of those basic things I was just talking about – the finer points of playing that position. He’s going to have to get his feet wet through the preseason games. But he has talent, he’s worked on it, he’s really bright.”
Consistency is now what the Lions are looking for in Green. Over the first two weeks of training camp, he’ll show some good flashes one day and then come back the next and miss a few plays.
“He’s got a lot of stuff that he’s working on, but the one thing that happens with him is once a day he’ll make a really nice play that will make you sort of open up your eyes,” Schwartz said of Green. "He’s done that consistently through camp.
“His play hasn’t been consistent, like a lot of rookies, but he’s consistently done something that opens your eyes and I think that he needs to, just like all our rookies, he needs to get more comfortable with technique, get more comfortable with the scheme. When that happens we can really see the athletic ability take over consistently.”
The preseason is an important time for all rookies to get acclimated to the scheme in game speed and game situations. It might be even more important for a rookie like Green, who needs to prove he can consistently make plays if he’s going to be more than a good special team’s contributor this season.