NFC North: Chris Greenwood

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Since the start of the offseason and really, continuously for the last decade, the Detroit Lions have been searching for a way to solidify their secondary.

They’ve tried mid-round draft picks coupled with free agent signings, with some minimal success, for the most part.

It worked for Detroit last season, when the Lions signed Rashean Mathis in the middle of training camp. The veteran made the roster and ended up as one of the team’s starters, along with Chris Houston, for the majority of the season.

Florence
Now general manager Martin Mayhew is at it again, hoping he can pull off the same veteran trick for the second straight season. The Lions signed veteran corner Drayton Florence on Thursday. The 33-year-old played one season in Carolina and was an occasional starter.

This is Florence’s second stint with the Lions -- he played eight games during the 2012 season under former coach Jim Schwartz.

This time, this is a signal that the Lions at least have some concern about the depth on the back end of their cornerback chart. Starters Darius Slay and Mathis are locks to make the roster. So, too, is rookie fourth-rounder Nevin Lawson, who is likely a backup cornerback and nickelback this season. Bill Bentley, last season’s starting nickelback, also will likely make the team.

Depending on whether or not the Lions keep five or six cornerbacks, Florence is likely competing with Cassius Vaughn, Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood for one or two roster spots. Vaughn and Green have had good moments during training camp; Greenwood has struggled throughout most of it.

If Florence shows he can still play at age 33 – somewhat ancient by standards of cornerbacks – he could end up stealing a spot from one of those guys. Florence also joins Mathis, 33, as the oldest members of the secondary and the defense and second-oldest on the Lions roster in general, behind veteran center Dominic Raiola, who is 35.

Typically, cornerbacks don’t stick this late in their careers, but considering Florence’s experience and skill, he’ll have a shot to make an impact if he shows he can still play. Florence has not been a full-time starter, though, since the 2011 season, when he started all 16 games for Buffalo, making 50 tackles and intercepting three passes.

It will be interesting to see how Detroit uses Florence.

Lions Camp Report: Day 6

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The Lions had a scrimmage Saturday during their yearly family day, dividing the roster into the first-team offense and second-team defense on one side and the second-team offense and first-team defense on the other. The first-team offense and defense had all the typical players save Calvin Johnson, who did not practice Saturday. That wasn’t surprising considering the Lions’ focus on keeping their star as fresh as possible. In their daily switch, LaAdrian Waddle lined up with the first team at right tackle and Corey Hilliard with the second team, but that competition between two players who will make the roster continues. Defensively, Tahir Whitehead received a lot of time at linebacker spelling Stephen Tulloch.
  • Big day for Eric Ebron, who caught a really long pass from Matthew Stafford and appeared to be more confident on the field than he has at any point this camp. It’s still going to be a learning process for him for a bit and there will certainly be mistakes, but Saturday was encouraging. Lions coach Jim Caldwell also seemed comfortable with Ebron’s progress as he learns the multitude of spots he is expected to line up at this fall. Ebron’s play was one of the highlights for the Lions’ offense of the scrimmage considering his issues with drops.
  • The Lions had some issues snapping the ball when Dominic Raiola was not part of the scrimmage. Both Darren Keyton – playing with the first group – and Travis Swanson had bad snaps to quarterbacks, causing issues. In Swanson’s case, it led to a fumble recovery for a touchdown by rookie Larry Webster, one of the better plays the defensive end has made during camp. While Swanson is still expected to be the backup center when everything shakes out a month from now, those issues amplified the importance of Raiola and his presence again this season.
  • Detroit’s cornerback situation behind Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis could get interesting. Jonte Green had his best day of camp thus far, breaking up two passes intended for receiver Ryan Broyles, who has not run with the first team much this camp. Chris Greenwood struggled again Saturday as well as those two potentially compete for one roster spot. Slay, Mathis, Bill Bentley, Nevin Lawson and probably Cassius Vaughn appear to be ahead of both Green and Greenwood on the depth chart – although Lawson is going to mostly play nickel. Still a long way to go in this competition with not much settled in the first week.
  • Another good day for Detroit’s kickers as Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio made all their field goals attempted during the scrimmage, including a 50-yarder from Tavecchio that sailed through the uprights with ease. Unlike last season, when David Akers won the kicking job fairly easily, this season it seems like this could go on for a while. A wrinkle here could be something Caldwell said Saturday – that the team would consider using punter Sam Martin on extremely long field goal attempts. He compared it to his situation in Indianapolis, where Caldwell considered using punter Pat McAfee on long field goals. McAfee never attempted a field goal in a game, though. So something to consider as this competition progresses -- especially as Martin has an extremely impressive camp punting.

The Lions will take Sunday off before practicing again Monday at 8:30 a.m.

Lions Camp Report: Day 5

August, 1, 2014
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • Rough day for the first-team offense during a two-minute drill situation. Defensive ends George Johnson and Darryl Tapp -- neither of whom is expected to be a first-team defender this season -- had touch sacks of Matthew Stafford. Stafford and the offense also went three-and-out on one possession with the quarterback being forced to throw away multiple passes when no one was open. Not surprisingly, Ndamukong Suh was also causing havoc up the middle. The second team fared better, scoring a touchdown and having Giorgio Tavecchio also make a 41-yard field goal to close practice. Jim Caldwell didn't seem too concerned, though, with any of the issues the first-team offense was having.
  • Why not? Well, the first-team offense still has Calvin Johnson, who made two exceptional catches Friday to show why he is the top receiver in the game. He grabbed a touchdown in 7-on-7 after the play was whistled dead, but the way he plucked it was exceptional. There was another play in which a Stafford pass looked like it was headed nowhere, then Johnson came out of his break, dove perfectly on the low ball and caught the ball in front of Chris Greenwood in 11-on-11. It was one of those plays that no defensive back can do anything about. And that has nothing to do with Greenwood, as other cornerbacks will attest to.
  • This was perhaps the best day for Detroit's kicking competitors thus far. Combined, Nate Freese and Tavecchio went 11-for-11, including Tavecchio's 41-yarder to end practice in a two-minute situation. Both also made field goals from 53 yards during a special teams section of practice. Meanwhile, Sam Martin is having a great camp punting. He continually boots punts of more than 65 yards and appears stronger than his rookie season already.
  • Among the defenders who stood out was rangy cornerback Mohammed Seisay. The Nebraska product, whom I wrote about more in depth here, is still a longshot to make the roster. However, with uncertainty in the final one or two cornerback spots, a strong camp could make him a consideration. He read a pass to tight end Eric Ebron perfectly during one-on-ones and broke the play up well. He wasn't the only defensive back to grab attention, as Darius Slay continued to have a strong camp, including a good pass breakup in the one-on-one session.
  • Mentioned Kevin Ogletree on Thursday and he put together another good practice, but Corey Fuller is starting to catch some notice as well among wide receivers. He caught a long pass in the two-minute drill from Dan Orlovsky after easily beating Greenwood. He also had nice catches during the receiver-vs.-defensive back session on both Nevin Lawson and Cassius Vaughn. He is a much more confident player than he was a season ago and looks like a completely different one -– an assessment he said he agreed with following practice.
  • The Lions return to practice at 10:30 a.m. Saturday for their final day of the first week before taking Sunday off. Like Friday, Saturday is expected to be a fully-padded practice.

Camp preview: Detroit Lions

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
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NFL Nation's Michael Rothstein examines the three biggest issues facing the Detroit Lions heading into training camp:

Offensive knowledge: The Lions looked better over the final two weeks of spring workouts than they did during the first few weeks, when the offense and quarterback Matthew Stafford looked completely out of rhythm. However, there is still a lot of learning and adjusting to go, including the re-entry of receiver Golden Tate and running back Joique Bell into the offense after they sat out part (Tate) or all (Bell) of the spring with injury. By the time training camp begins, the terminology for the new Detroit offense should be down. It'll be the implementation and the repetition of it that likely will still need some work, this time against a defense that eventually will be allowed to bump, press and blitz. The key here, as it always is lately when it comes to Detroit, will be Stafford and his comfort level with the new offense. Most of the players remain the same for him -- but making sure the routes and terminology are correct is going to be one of the most important things for the Lions as they prepare for the season.

What's up at corner: Chris Houston is gone. Darius Slay, barring injury, will almost certainly be a starter in his second year with the Lions. So, too, will Rashean Mathis, who spent almost all of the spring as the cornerback opposite Slay. The question is who ends up behind them. While looking at backups might seem an odd issue for camp, the Lions have been struggling at corner for years now, and having depth there is going to be a key. Bill Bentley will likely end up in the slot -- although expect him to be pushed at least a little by safety Don Carey and rookie Nevin Lawson. The outside cornerback roles, though, will be interesting to see. Cassius Vaughn had a good spring, and the veteran could end up earning a roster spot with a strong summer. Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood both enter their third seasons with the club and could be fighting for one roster spot between the two of them, especially if the Lions choose to keep Vaughn. This is also an area for which Detroit could end up trying to find a veteran upgrade through the free-agent wire, much like the team did with Mathis a season ago. A signing during camp, he turned into the leader of the Lions' cornerbacks and the team's top performer at the position by midseason.

The kicker: For almost two decades, this was not a problem position for the Lions. Jason Hanson showed up to camp. Jason Hanson kicked the ball. Jason Hanson won the job. Simple. Done. Last season, the Lions went with veteran David Akers, a situation that didn't work out. Now, the Lions are hunting for a player they hope will have the same consistency and longevity of Hanson, who retired after the 2012 season. Nate Freese, on whom the team spent a seventh-round pick, and Giorgio Tavecchio, a former Cal kicker who has bounced around training camps the past two years, are the candidates. Tavecchio has the stronger leg. Freese is likely the more accurate kicker and, due to having a draft pick invested, would appear to be the favorite. However, Detroit understands the importance of having a strong kicker. Justin Tucker made six field goals against the Lions last season to help crush their playoff hopes. That was just the latest example of a strong kicker hurting the Lions. So figuring out which player gives the team the best shot will be an underrated -- but vital -- portion of camp.
Part of the reason the Detroit Lions essentially ignored addressing the secondary in the 2014 draft was because of the faith general manager Martin Mayhew had in the potential of his young cornerbacks.

That trust is sure to be tested now.

The Lions have released their top cornerback, Chris Houston, after an inconsistent 2013 and offseason surgery for a toe that just wouldn't heal. Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis would now likely be the team's opening day starters at cornerback and the move increases the pressure on an untested group of players.

Houston
Houston
Bill Bentley has experience in the slot and is probably best suited there instead of on the outside. Jonte Green started games the past two seasons when players went down to injury, but has not been consistent. Chris Greenwood can't stay healthy and has minimal experience. Cassius Vaughn had a good spring, but was used to primarily used to provide depth at cornerback in Indianapolis.

The one pick the Lions did use on the secondary, corner Nevin Lawson in the fourth round, should have been more of a developmental selection.

At least one of those players will need to be counted on this fall. The early guess would be Vaughn, who has some experience and had moments where he looked extremely sharp in the spring. He likely won't be a starter, but he at least feels like part of the reason the team could have felt comfortable releasing Houston without even seeing him in training camp.

Now, unless the Lions sign a cornerback before camp, they will have to use this group to forge a cornerback corps. It is a unit with some talent, but short on experience. In a division with receivers like Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, that is not the type of situation you want to have.

Yet this is where Detroit is in the middle of June.

Something like this -- and Detroit had to have an inkling of concern here considering Houston did not play well in 2013 and had surgery -- was part of why it was so confusing how the Lions handled the secondary in the draft. Yes, Justin Gilbert was off the board when Detroit picked, but the team wasted little time before drafting tight end Eric Ebron, who the team opened up money to sign by cutting Houston.

They didn't seem to consider either selecting or trying to trade down to nab cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Darqueze Dennard or even Jason Verrett from TCU or Bradley Roby from Ohio State. Or the team could have drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama or Calvin Pryor from Louisville at safety and moved Don Carey, the team's third safety, to cornerback -- a position he previously played.

After Ebron, the team went with an interior lineman, Travis Swanson, in the third round and traded their fourth round pick to move up for Kyle Van Noy. The move possibly cost them one of the litany of defensive backs who went off the board before the team took Lawson with a supplemental pick in the fourth round.

Any of those first three picks could have been used on a secondary player that could have helped.

Of course all of this is hindsight now. Yet the Lions knew this possibility existed because of Houston's past few months. And that possibility became reality Friday -- even if it was somewhat predictable after Houston was excused from mandatory minicamp.

It leaves Detroit either hunting on the free agent wire or sticking with what they have – a group of young cornerbacks that could end up deciding Mayhew's future.

This is a sequence -- between the draft strategy, how's Houston's injury and eventual release was handled -- that should be used to judge Mayhew if Detroit struggles this season.

Mayhew put his faith with a group of young cornerbacks early. With Houston gone, Mayhew will now need them to prove he was right all along.

Lions offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- With free agency and the NFL draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple months away, we assess the Detroit Lions' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeTate
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsWith Golden Tate flanking Calvin Johnson, the Detroit wide receiver depth has greatly improved.
Best move: The Lions desperately needed to upgrade their wide receiver corps and making Golden Tate the biggest priority of the free-agent period ended up being a smart move for the club. They signed a player who can complement Calvin Johnson as well as having some of the best hands in the league. As a bonus, he is a really competent blocker who plays above his size.

Riskiest move: Detroit opted to not go after an impact cornerback during free agency and then waited until the fourth round to draft one earlier this month. Why is this a risk? It means Detroit is trusting that one of its unproven cornerbacks (Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood) or one of the players who was inconsistent last season (Chris Houston, Darius Slay) will be prepared to make the jump or return to form in 2014.

Most surprising move: The Lions declined Nick Fairley’s fifth-year option for a seemingly baffling reason. Detroit wanted to use it to try to motivate the talented but inconsistent defensive tackle to improve his game. In doing so, they essentially could be letting him walk out the door. There was no downside for Detroit in picking up Fairley’s option. It is not a guaranteed option and considering the unresolved contract situation surrounding Ndamukong Suh, it could leave the Lions without either of their top two defensive tackles come 2015.

Everything focused on Stafford: One of the biggest themes of the offseason was finding help for quarterback Matthew Stafford, now entering his sixth season with Detroit. The Lions signed him a new target in Tate, drafted him a new tight end in Eric Ebron and brought back a familiar comfort player in Brandon Pettigrew. It hired a coaching staff full of quarterback experience, from head coach Jim Caldwell (worked with Peyton Manning) to offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi (worked with Drew Brees) to quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter (worked with Manning). In a league driven by quarterback play, the Lions placed a lot of their 2014 focus on making sure Stafford can do as well as he can.

The Detroit Lions opened their organized team activities (OTAs) Tuesday at their practice facility in Allen Park, Michigan.

The media will watch Wednesday’s session, and here are five things to pay attention to as this part of the offseason begins.

1. What's going on with Suh?

Ndamukong Suh has been the main topic of the entire offseason, from his contract situation to missing the beginning of offseason workouts. But Suh is back in town, and how he ends up interacting with everyone will be something to watch.

Dominic Raiola said Monday night he was looking forward to seeing him -- and there’s a good chance the young defensive players are feeling the same way. There have been some questions about Suh getting up to speed with the defense, but he has never shown up out of shape and there is no reason to think Suh will not be in shape this time around, in what could end up being a contract year for him. Now his storyline can shift back to whether he signs an extension with the Lions.

Fairley
2. What does Nick Fairley look like?

Saw Fairley briefly the first day of offseason workouts in April. He didn’t talk to the media then and he was wearing a baggy shirt, so it was difficult to tell what he looked like. He’s always been able to play with a lot of weight, though, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

What type of shape he’s in -- and how motivated he is after the Lions chose not to pick up his fifth-year option earlier this year -- will be the major questions surrounding him. Fairley is now playing for his second NFL contract, either in Detroit or elsewhere, and money can be a motivating factor for a lot of players.

Stafford
Stafford
3. What will the offense look like?

Since Detroit hired Joe Lombardi as the team’s offensive coordinator, much has been made about the Lions looking like a northern version of the high-powered New Orleans Saints. It is part of the reason the team drafted North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron in the first round and brought in Golden Tate in free agency. The Lions should have every offensive piece they will need from a skill position standpoint. How quickly Matthew Stafford and his group pick up the offense will be interesting. While there won’t be a ton of clues Wednesday, by the end of the mandatory minicamp in June, there should be a clue as to what Detroit could look like in the fall.

4. What's going on at the corners?

Chris Houston won’t be out there and may not be ready by training camp. Martin Mayhew has indicated this is a big season for the young, developing corners the team does have -- Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood, Bill Bentley and Darius Slay, the last of who is thought to be a potential starter this fall. If that quartet can make the necessary improvements, perhaps cornerback won’t be as big an issue as it has been the past few years. Also curious to see where the team uses Rashean Mathis. The veteran, if he can play as he did a season ago, could provide relief either in the slot or on the outside.

5. How does the team respond to coach Jim Caldwell?

So far, the players have said all the right things and acted in all the right ways. However, it’ll be interesting to see the pace of his practices and the way he interacts with the players during practice. He was brought in to be a calming, more disciplined influence on a team that went through a lot of penalty issues in prior seasons. Expect the team to believe in Caldwell heading into this season -- he proved in his opening news conference he can be fiery in certain situations -- and to be happy to have another fresh-type start.
Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Detroit Lions heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014.

To see the series to date, click this link.

Free agent to be: Chris Greenwood (Exclusive rights)

Position: Cornerback

Age: 24

Years in the league: 2

What he made last season: $112,941 (cap number); $480,000 (cash value and base salary)

What he did last season: Greenwood started the season on Detroit’s practice squad and was signed away by Dallas during the first month of the season. He didn’t appear in any games for the Cowboys and was eventually released. At that point, Detroit brought him back and eventually put him on the active roster. He dressed for the final three games of the season and played cornerback in the last two, making six tackles in 63 snaps.

His potential market value: None, but that is because he is probably headed right back to Detroit. The Lions have a core of young corners in their cornerback corps and he played well enough over the last two games that they’ll want to give him another look this offseason.

Will he fit the Lions still: Yes. Detroit needs cornerback help and has to let the cornerbacks they have picked up over the past couple of seasons, including Bill Bentley, Darius Slay, Jonte Green and Greenwood play more to see if they can develop into viable cornerbacks or are not worth keeping around. Greenwood is on that list and the Lions have always appeared to like him, so he’ll get a good shot at being on the roster in the fall.

What happens: Greenwood comes back and actually pushes Bentley and Green for their spots. Whether he beats either one of them out is a tough thing to predict at this time because there is so much that can happen at a position the Lions clearly need to upgrade, but he will make a strong push. The somewhat-on-a-limb prediction here is that Greenwood ends up on the 53-man roster in September.

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Lions

January, 15, 2014
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There are two areas of major need for the Detroit Lions entering the 2014 draft -- wide receiver and cornerback -- and the team will have to take care of remedying one of those issues in the first round this May.

Colleague Mel Kiper Jr. has the Lions Insider taking Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert with the No. 10 pick in his first mock draft of the year, potentially solving at least one of Detroit’s issues.

Receiver Sammy Watkins from Clemson would be the obvious choice for Detroit, but the chances of him still lingering at the No. 10 pick -- especially when he might be the most talented player in the draft, period -- is unlikely. So after Watkins, the Lions need to weigh draft depth and who might be available to them in the second round as much as the first.

And that’s where taking a cornerback would be the potential smart choice here, especially if there is no corner in free agency that they are able to land. That could be difficult considering the Lions are in a tough salary cap spot right now.

So Kiper has the Lions taking Gilbert in the hopes that he’ll be a good cornerback to pair with last year’s second-round selection, Darius Slay, in the future.

“Has put together a great season after a subpar 2012,” Kiper wrote in his initial analysis of Gilbert. “Has short-area quickness to adjust to routes and the open-field speed to run with (or past) any receiver. Has the size to jam at the line and can then flip his hips and run; he rarely allows much separation. Good ball skills and hands, evident both in coverage and the return game. Squarely back into the mid-first-round mix.”

Gilbert had 42 tackles and seven interceptions last season. He’s also a 6-foot corner and weighs 200 pounds, which is decent size on the outside.

He would be brought in to try to improve a defense -- likely with a new defensive coordinator -- that was 23rd against the pass last season (246.88 yards per game) and 19th in yards per pass attempt (6.91).

Should Detroit draft Gilbert, the question is: What happens to the rest of the Lions cornerbacks? Chris Houston signed a five-year deal before last season, but had a very inconsistent 2013 and ended up being the Lions’ second cornerback instead of the No. 1 corner they had hoped.

Detroit’s top corner last season, Rashean Mathis, is an unrestricted free agent and made 47 tackles last season. He is 33 years old, but told ESPN.com he intends to try to play for one or two more seasons after he showed he was healthy this year.

The Lions also have a plethora of other young cornerbacks besides Slay: nickel Bill Bentley and reserves Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood. All have shown potential but none have shown they could be a consistent starter.

So if the Lions do select a cornerback in the first round, it could mean one or two of the cornerbacks from last season could be playing somewhere else in 2014.

Lions without Johnson, three corners

December, 29, 2013
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Detroit Lions made the correct call.

Johnson
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is among the seven players inactive for the Lions, ending his season with 84 catches for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns. The receptions and yards are his lowest totals since the 2010 season.

His 12 touchdowns more than doubled the five he had a season ago.

In Johnson's place, the Lions will start receiver Kevin Ogletree. Ogletree has 16 catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns this season, split between Tampa Bay and Detroit.

No Johnson is only part of Detroit's issues Sunday. Three of top five Lions cornerbacks are out as Chris Houston, Bill Bentley and Jonte Green are all inactive. Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay, who is coming off a torn meniscus, will start and Chris Greenwood, who played his first NFL game earlier this month, will be the top backup.

Also inactive for Detroit is its starting right tackle, LaAdrian Waddle, and he'll be replaced by Jason Fox. Dylan Gandy is the other inactive on the offensive line. Guard Rodney Austin will be active for the first time in his career.

And this also ends Kellen Moore's second season with the Lions -- and second season where he has yet to play in a game.
DETROIT -- Some thoughts from the first half at Ford Field, where the New York Giants lead the Detroit Lions, 13-3.

No offensive urgency: Whether it is the play calling or mistakes by the offense or potentially good defense, the Detroit offense has looked off again Sunday against New York. Reggie Bush lost another fumble -- his second lost fumble since making a promise following the Pittsburgh game he would not fumble again this season. Matthew Stafford alternated making good plays with throwing near interceptions before finally throwing one right into the arms and body of defensive lineman Justin Tuck on the Lions' final drive of the half. And Calvin Johnson’s workload has been lessened, likely due to the knee injury that forced him to become questionable for the game.

Cornerback depth: The Lions were already without their two starters, Chris Houston (toe) and Rashean Mathis (illness), who were deemed inactive before the game. Then Bill Bentley was injured on a Jerrel Jernigan touchdown catch when he collided with Detroit safety Louis Delmas. That leaves the Lions with little-used Jonte Green, the injured Darius Slay and Chris Greenwood, who played in his first NFL game last week, as their three cornerbacks for the second half. Considering Eli Manning's skill and how Hakeem Nicks and Jernigan have played already, this could be a major concern for the Lions in the second half.

No defensive pressure: The Giants were without their starting right guard, David Diehl and lost their backup, Brandon Mosley, in the first half. Yet they were still unable to get pressure on Manning until the final drive of the half, when Ziggy Ansah sacked Manning. Manning had plenty of time to find receivers the entire first half, completing 10 of 17 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. He was particularly effective on third down, where the Giants were 5-of-7 in the first half.
DETROIT -- Detroit may have star receiver Calvin Johnson available for Sunday's game against the New York Giants, but the Lions will be without both their starting cornerbacks.

Rashean Mathis (illness) and Chris Houston (toe) are both inactive for Detroit on Sunday, leaving the Lions extremely short at corner. Bill Bentley, the team's usual nickel back, and Jonte Green will be the presumed starters at corner.

Chris Greenwood is the team's top reserve and Darius Slay, who was listed as doubtful heading into the game as he recovers from a torn meniscus in his right knee, is also active.

The Lions' other inactives are expected: quarterback Kellen Moore; running back Mikel Leshoure; offensive guards Leroy Harris and Rodney Austin and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who was ruled out Friday.
DETROIT -- His experience is minimal with 20 defensive snaps this season. And now, in the biggest game of the season for the Detroit Lions, on national television against the Baltimore Ravens, one of the starting cornerbacks will be Jonte Green.

Green was inactive for some games earlier this season and was essentially the last option for the Lions at cornerback when he was active. He will now have to cover Marlon Brown and be effective in his role.

Veteran Rashean Mathis is expected to line up opposite Baltimore's top target, Torrey Smith.

Green landed in this role due to injuries to starter Chris Houston and top reserve Darius Slay, both of whom are inactive for the Lions on Monday night. Detroit now has Mathis, Green, Bill Bentley and Chris Greenwood, who has never played an NFL game, as its active corners.

The Lions' other inactives were as expected as well: quarterback Kellen Moore, running back Mikel Leshoure, guard Leroy Harris, tackle Jason Fox and guard Rodney Austin.
In many ways, Monday night on national television could have looked a lot different for the Detroit Lions. There could have been a chance the Lions could have clinched the division against the Baltimore Ravens. But with everything set up well for Detroit in the division, the Lions could not close it out.

They let the Chicago Bears hang around. Let the Green Bay Packers hang around. So now the Lions are in this other situation: Win to hold on to the lead in the division.

"It's there for the taking, but we have to go out and take it," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "That starts with the Ravens on Monday night. Last time we left Ford Field, we were feeling really good about ourselves with the win over Green Bay on Thanksgiving.

"We have to get that feeling back. We know our crowd will make a difference for us. I think you'll see that from our players."

Detroit has to. Its season might depend on it. So how do the Lions accomplish this? Here are the four keys.

Deal with the pressure: The Lions spent all week saying essentially different variations of the playoffs are starting now. Well, Detroit got what it wanted. With Chicago winning on the road at Cleveland, the Lions need to beat Baltimore to keep pace with the Bears in the NFC North and hold on to a playoff spot for the time being. And if the Lions lose Monday, then they drop to third in the division.

This is the way it is going to be for Detroit the rest of the season and the Lions, if they are going to be a playoff team like they say they want to be, have to be able to deal with it. The Lions have vacillated between being very good and very bad in games like this over the course of this season.

Pressure Flacco: Joe Flacco likes to find receivers downfield when he can and is eighth in the NFL in air yards per attempt. Considering Detroit's depleted cornerback situation -- it'd be surprising if Chris Houston or Darius Slay played Monday night -- the Lions front four needs to be able to reach Flacco at the rate they reached Matt Flynn on Thanksgiving in order to cause disruptions in the passing game. Detroit did this to Flynn by taking away his first read, but the Lions also had a healthy-enough secondary then. They don't now, so Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Ziggy Ansah and Willie Young need to get to Flacco early.

Stop the turnovers: This is becoming a weekly topic, but considering the Lions' lack of margin for error both in games and in the season at this point, they need to have a game where they are not careless with the ball. Detroit hasn't had a game without a turnover since facing Cincinnati in October and haven't had a game with less than three turnovers since the win over Chicago in Week 10.

Baltimore has only picked off nine passes this season, so the Ravens aren't exactly an opportunistic defense. Detroit can't have that switch on Monday night.

Give help on the outside: Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and Schwartz both expressed confidence in Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood, the two likely candidates to line up opposite Rashean Mathis at cornerback. The Lions have to trust Mathis will be able to hang with Torrey Smith, especially since Green or Greenwood might need help with Marlon Brown (36 catches, 412 yards, six touchdowns) on the other side. Bill Bentley or Don Carey will also have a difficult assignment with speedster Jacoby Jones in the slot, but the matchup between Green/Greenwood and Brown could be a big factor Monday.

Practice report: Lions down corners

December, 14, 2013
12/14/13
12:15
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Things are not looking promising for Detroit when it comes to having healthy cornerbacks.

Both Chris Houston (toe) and Darius Slay (knee) did not practice for the third straight day, and while it is highly doubtful Slay plays as he recovers from a torn meniscus, Houston's availability becomes a major concern for the Lions against Baltimore.

If neither one plays, Detroit will likely look to Jonte Green, who has played sparingly, or Chris Greenwood, who was promoted from the practice squad last week, to play in Houston's place.

Bill Bentley would be another option. But Detroit uses him in the nickel, so it would be between him and Don Carey there.

Also not at practice was safety Louis Delmas (knee), but this is his typical maintenance day.

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