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Friday, May 9, 2014
Lions fill needs, but not in the secondary

By Michael Rothstein

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Martin Mayhew has said often the Detroit Lions are going to focus on their board and take who they deem the best player available.

On Thursday night, it left the Lions selecting a player who seemed like a luxury instead of a significant need. On Friday, Detroit came away with two players who could fill major roles potentially early.

Two areas the team was going to handle in the draft was to find a linebacker with pass-rush ability who could be versatile and an eventual replacement for veteran center Dominic Raiola.

Lions GM Martin Mayhew
"I certainly didn't mean to let on that I didn't have any confidence in our secondary if I did," Lions GM Martin Mayhew said.
Detroit did by drafting linebacker Kyle Van Noy from BYU in the second round and then offensive lineman Travis Swanson, who can play both guard and center, in the third round. These two picks represent a smart second day of drafting for general manager Martin Mayhew, who took cornerback Darius Slay in the second round and right guard Larry Warford in the third round last season.

They filled those needs then and did again now.

“Like I said a couple of days ago, we just want to keep getting good football players,” Mayhew said. “We want to improve our front seven, our secondary, our offensive line, our receiver corps. We want to keep adding good football players to this football team.

“That's what our goal is.”

It's a goal accomplished Friday with a caveat. As the Lions have filled some of those needs, there is one area that remains empty.

The secondary.

It's a curious decision by Detroit, considering Mayhew and Jim Caldwell have expressed concern about cornerback Chris Houston returning to form while Rashean Mathis climbs toward his mid-30s and the rest of the cornerbacks are unproven or untested. At safety, the Lions have a surefire starter in Glover Quin and another potential starter in James Ihedigbo, but he is also on the wrong side of 30.

After going two days in the draft with no cornerbacks or safeties selected, Mayhew seems unconcerned by this theoretical defensive hole. When asked if not drafting a defensive back meant he has more confidence than previously thought in the secondary, he insisted he does have confidence in a back end that inspired little of it last season.

“I certainly didn't mean to let on that I didn't have any confidence in our secondary if I did,” Mayhew said. “But yeah, as I said to you guys before, it's not about what position these guys play. We want to keep drafting good players. If we do that, we'll have a talented football team.

“Again, going back to last year, like I said to you guys before, we were 15th in points allowed, which is right in the middle of the pack. We were first on third-down defense. I think we were ranked first or second in red zone defense, so I have confidence in our entire defense.”

It didn't seem that way before, but as more of the draft passes by and more and more defensive backs are taken off the board -- nine cornerbacks and six safeties Thursday and Friday -- the Lions better hope that by addressing positions other than the secondary, they are making the right decision.

Otherwise, it might not matter how many good football players they collect at other positions because stopping the pass in the NFC North might be more difficult than ever.