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Sutton building chemistry with new teammates in 'high energy' secondary

The competition at practice between the offense and defense doesn't really begin to ramp up until the start of training camp, but watching Detroit's new-look secondary through the first two open OTA practices there's definitely a different swagger about them. In 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team periods there appears to be a higher competition level from those players. There are more hands reaching footballs and more footballs falling to the ground incomplete.

One of the big additions to the secondary this offseason was the signing of veteran cornerback Cam Sutton. He's been manning one of the outside cornerback spots consistently this spring and said he's loved the early energy the guys in the secondary are showing.

"From the defensive side we have a lot of physical guys," Sutton said. "A lot of hungry guys. Guys who want to get after the ball and make plays on the ball from all different levels. It's a very communicative group, very high energy and you need that tenacity that vicious mindset every time you attack the field."

Lions general manager Brad Holmes made retooling Detroit's secondary his No. 1 priority this offseason. Sutton's agent was the first person Holmes called when the window opened to contact the representation of free-agent players.

Sutton, 28, spent his first six seasons in Pittsburgh and the last two as a full-time starter for the Steelers. One of the top cornerbacks in free agency this offseason, he earned a 70-plus coverage grade and allowed just 411 receiving yards – the ninth fewest among cornerbacks with at least 400 coverage snaps – in his coverage area this past season. Opposing passers completed just 47.9 percent of their passes when throwing at him with a 65.3 rating, per Pro Football Reference stats. He's expected to help usher in a new standard for Detroit's secondary.

Last season Detroit's secondary allowed the most yards per completion (12.6), the eighth most passing touchdowns (26), the eighth highest passer rating (94.2) and the third most passing yards (4,446).

Sutton joins veterans C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley and rookie Brian Branch as new faces expected to make an impact in Detroit's secondary. It's a pretty versatile group with a number of players able to play multiple spots, including Sutton, who played some safety, outside corner and nickel corner over his years with the Steelers.

For Sutton, the rest of OTAs and next week's mandatory minicamp is all about continuing to build chemistry amongst all the new pieces in the secondary.

"Just putting time in," he said. "I always tell the guys, 'never be in a rush to get out the building.' Being early and being on time and taking care of your body throughout the morning. Push through meetings and make sure you get all the details. And always ask questions. No question is a wrong question or bad question. Just opening those guys up to those different things and being a sponge from everything."

View photos from Day 5 of Detroit Lions OTA practice on Thursday, June 1, 2023 in Allen Park, Mich.

Being a more vocal unit and communicating better has been a big emphasis this offseason. Having veteran players like Sutton, along with the return of veteran safety Tracy Walker, should help in that regard and it's already been noticeable in the open practices.

Sutton described coordinator Aaron Glenn's defensive scheme as more advantageous for making plays on the ball. They want to be physical, take advantage of mistakes, and most importantly get off the field at a much higher percentage.

"I think we have a group who is tenacious," Sutton said. "A group that's really fiery and wants to get after guys. Making teams pay for the little mistakes. Making the plays that we're supposed to make. And just punishing guys every time they touch the ball."

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