If it’s true that defense wins championships, it might help explain why the Detroit Lions have only made the playoffs once in the last fifteen seasons.
In recent years, the Lions have been branded as one of the worst teams in the league defensively. An unfathomable trait about the consistent disappointment is that this team is insanely talented overall. However, relying on talent in a limited number of positions can only take a team so far. The cornerback situation in Detroit is not only uncertain, but the inhibiting factor to the future success of the Lions.
With the release of Chris Houston, formerly the number one cornerback on the team, the Lions seem to be heading in the wrong direction. Houston was plagued with injury issues this past season and underwent intensive surgery in the offseason. Although the contract Houston leaves behind opens up salary cap space, filling the position with a solid alternative will be difficult.
Slay began the first two games last season as a starter before being benched. The season was shaky for Slay despite filling in positively for Houston later in the year. The good news is Slay has shown being young leaves extensive room for improvement. This offseason Slay has been working with Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodsen. Although Slay is showing considerable improvement from last season, it has been noted he is still unable to prove himself against some of the leagues best receivers like Calvin Johnson.
On the other end of the spectrum, Rashean Mathis has agreed to a 1-year contract with the Lions for the upcoming season. Assuming he stays healthy, Mathis will be starting opposite Slay in the fall. Mathis has the experience to survive but his stats in recent years have been declining as Mathis has not recorded a single interception in the past two years.
In the last three drafts, the Lions have taken five cornerbacks. Aside from Slay, Bill Bentley is entering his 3rd year with the Lions and has the potential to overtake a starting position at Nickel should he remain healthy. Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood are also part of the 2012 draft class looking to make a significant impact this season. This years 4th round draft pick, Nevin Lawson, will be coming into his rookie season. He will likely start on the bench behind Bentley but will be the only player coming into camp with a clean slate. And finally, Cassius Vaughn will be the newest free agent addition to this seasons’ cornerback lineup.
Training camp is around the corner and a new coaching staff is poised and determined to give the Lions a winning playoff season. Coach Jim Caldwell recognizes the need for an improvement on the defensive side. Don’t count the Lions out; if two players can step up and make a significant impact at the cornerback position, the playoffs are within reach.