Rashaan Melvin has occupied one of the outside cornerback spots with the first-team defense all throughout the spring for the Detroit Lions. He’s one of the favorites to keep that open spot opposite Darius Slay when training camp begins at the end of next month and the competition for it really ramps up.
Melvin enters his sixth NFL season after playing for the Oakland Raiders in 2018, where he appeared in 14 games (seven starts) and totaled 56 tackles and one interception. Prior to Oakland, he spent time with the Indianapolis Colts (2016-17), New England Patriots (2015) and Baltimore Ravens (2014-15).
That stint with the Patriots in 2015 coincided with Lions head coach Matt Patricia being the defensive coordinator in New England, so there’s a familiarity there with both scheme for the player and skillset for the coach.
Asked about Melvin (6-2, 194) before practice last Thursday, Patricia said the veteran cornerback is a natural fit for his scheme.
“He’s a big, long corner. He’s a guy that’s familiar with the different techniques and fundamentals that we’ve played through the course of the year,” Patricia said. “He’s a guy that naturally falls into some of the scheme things that we do and some of the stuff that we do on the field.”
It’s for that reason the Lions pursued Melvin and signed him in free agency after releasing incumbent starter Nevin Lawson. Melvin is a press-man corner with length and ball skills.
Melvin’s played in 51 games (28 starts) and has 174 tackles, four interceptions and 30 pass breakups.
“I’m a long guy,” Melvin said, when asked what he thought Patricia meant about him being a natural fit in the scheme. “I like to get my hands on receivers. Anytime you can have that kind of player, it’s good for the defense to strip routes.”
The Lions do play a lot of man coverage in their scheme and like a certain physicality from their cornerbacks. Melvin’s a willing tackler too, something the Lions value from the position.
“Anytime you can transition into a defense you’re kind of familiar with, in a role that you can play and help the team win, it’s good for the team and good for the player,” Melvin said. “I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to see what the future holds. Excited to see the progress we continue to make this offseason getting ready to come back for training camp.”
Melvin is expected to compete with Teez Tabor, Amani Oruwariye, Marcus Cooper Sr., Mike Ford and others for the starting job opposite Slay. Melvin likes the cornerback room as it’s currently constructed, and the competition among everyone in that room.
Patricia thinks that competition will make everyone better, including Melvin.
“You want as much competition as possible out there,” he said. “I think the corner position is always an interesting one, especially (because) it correlates hand-in-hand with the wide receiver position. As we’ve all seen through the course of the years, some big, fast, strong wide receivers that keep coming out of college and are producing in the league.
“Certainly you want to have the best matchup possible when you can at the corner position on those guys. It doesn’t always mean that the physical stats are the same. Obviously, however they play and compete at that position is most important. (Melvin’s) just another guy that gives us a great opportunity to go out there and compete at that position.”
Melvin expects to come back ready to compete in camp. He hopes his size, length, versatility and physicality all shine through once the pads come on, and he can earn himself a big role in this defense in the fall.