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O'HARA: Agnew continues to see playing time on defense

It's a good sign for Jamal Agnew that he has gotten more playing time at cornerback in the Detroit Lions' first two preseason games and less as a punt returner.

Head coach Matt Patricia and his defensive staff like Agnew's progression that started in the spring workouts and has warranted giving him a chance to compete for a bigger role in the cornerback rotation.

It has been just the opposite on punt returns, where Agnew made All Pro last year as a rookie. He returned two punts for touchdowns.

Agnew's only action on punt returns in the first two games this year was to fair catch a punt in last week's loss to the Giants. Agnew has not been shunted aside on punt returns. He is a known commodity and most likely is being saved for the regular season.

"Special teams wise, he's a very explosive player," Patricia said. "We'll continue to try to get him in good positions."

In the first two games, three other Lions have been used on punt returns, Agnew's specialty.

"We're trying to look at a bunch of return guys there," Patricia said. "But I'd say he's probably a pretty good one."

Agnew's athleticism and ball skills are part of why the Lions drafted him in the fifth round last year out of San Diego. Those skills were apparent to Patricia in the spring workouts.

"We had him in different positions, inside and outside, in the spring," Patricia said.

"He really has a good skill set. He's very quick. He really does a good job of recognizing receivers breaking routes. He's aggressive tackling. Very physical.

"It was a good opportunity for us to get a good look at him and put him in certain situations and use him in different matchups. From a defensive standpoint, try to develop that."

View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Aug. 20, 2018

Whether Agnew gets any playing time on offense is not likely to be known until it actually happens in a regular-season game. Last year he played 12 offensive snaps. He had two catches for 18 yards and two runs for nine.

Agnew welcomes the heavier workload on defense. He was strictly a special teams performer last year until the last two games. Agnew played 13 games last season, missing three with an injury, and had only one defensive snap going into the final two games, when he played a combined 68 defensive snaps.

Agnew has played 40 snaps in the first two preseason games combined. He isn't making any projections on his status. He played a lot in the preseason last year, too. The third preseason game at Tampa Bay Friday night will be a good indicator for where a lot of players stand, Agnew included.

"We'll see," Agnew said when asked about his role. "We're starting to get into more of the in-season stuff. We're still working. It's not a finished product. We're still trying to figure out what we've got.

"There's nothing like getting those game reps -- just because you see things it's hard to simulate in practice

"Getting those game reps has helped me a lot, learning what I can do and what I can't go – techniques and stuff."

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