Strong safety competition still 'extremely competitive'

When veteran safeties Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson signed with the Detroit Lions this offseason, general manager Bob Quinn promised them nothing but an opportunity to compete for a job.

"The only thing you want as a player is an opportunity," Wilson said before practice Tuesday. "A fair opportunity at a job, and I feel like I've been given that."

Bush and Wilson have been at the top of the strong safety competition from the start of training camp, ahead of second-year player Isaiah Johnson and rookie Miles Killebrew.

Bush played with the first-team defense the first three weeks of practice and started the first two preseason games alongside free safety Glover Quin. Wilson made the start last week in Baltimore.

Bush is still listed as the starter on the unofficial depth chart heading into this week's preseason finale in Buffalo.

"It's been extremely competitive," head coach Jim Caldwell said of the competition between both men. "Both guys have done well. Both guys have tackled well. Both guys have run to the ball extremely well."

So who will start Sept. 11 in Indianapolis? There's still two weeks of practice and one preseason game before we officially learn that.

"I welcomed the competition," Bush said. "It's good for me. It's good for him. It's good for all of us. It makes us better as a team."

Wilson has taken 79 reps through the first three preseason games and is second on the team behind Antwione Williams (13) with nine tackles. Pro Football Focus has credited him with giving up three catches for 26 yards and a touchdown.

Bush has played 74 snaps and has four tackles. He has not been credited with a target against.

Neither player has missed a tackle.

Bush is probably the more prototypical in-the-box strong safety between the two. His strength is his best asset, but he can also run.

"Just a physicality," Bush said of what he would bring to the defense if he won the starting job. "Smarts. A guy that can play down in the box. A guy that can play back deep. Doesn't really give offenses a chance to know who is the guy coming down and who is rotating.

"I'm just a guy that would love to be able to do a lot of things, whether that's blitz, covering guys, playing back deep or whatever they ask me to do. I thrive off being able to do multiple things."

Wilson has only started four games on defense over his four-year career, but he's competed hard and put in the extra work. He's made plays both in practice and in the preseason games to earn a look.

"I think versatility, smarts, toughness," Wilson said of what he'd bring to the defense if starting. "I pride myself on those three things. When it's all said and done, I just try and be those three things."

However it ultimately shakes out, both players say the competition over the last month has made them better. Caldwell feels the same way.

"It bodes well, I think, for us," Caldwell said. "We have two veteran guys that have certainly been extremely active and they've done a great job."

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