NFL Nation: Jonte Green

Most significant move: By cutting kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, the Lions ended their kicking competition by settling on rookie Nate Freese from Boston College. Detroit coach Jim Caldwell continually called this a tight competition. However, Freese always worked with the first team and was the first kicker out in all three preseason games. Tavecchio had the more consistent camp of the two players, but Detroit invested a seventh-round draft pick in Freese. He may be Detroit’s kicker for now and could end up as its kicker throughout the season, but another miss or two and the team might want to consider the free-agent wire, including recently released Jay Feely from Arizona.

Defensive backfield getting settled: Detroit released corners Jonte Green and Aaron Hester and sent safety DeJon Gomes to injured reserve on Monday, giving some clarity to their secondary. Green was a somewhat surprising cut since it seemed like the team might at least keep him around until Saturday’s final cuts, but Chris Greenwood clearly beat him out. The questions in the secondary is now how many corners and safeties the team takes and whether it looks at a sixth corner (likely Greenwood) or a fifth safety (either Isa Abdul-Quddus or Jerome Couplin). Those will be two situations to watch Thursday night.

What’s next: The Lions will probably search the waiver wire for secondary help, maybe take a look at a receiver or kicking options. Otherwise, they play Buffalo on Thursday and make final cuts Saturday.

Lions moves: Cut CB Jonte Green, CB Aaron Hester, FB Chad Abram, K Giorgio Tavecchio, P Drew Butler, QB James Franklin, OG Alex Bullard, OL A.J. Dalton, DT Gregory Hickman, RB Steven Miller, DE Kris Redding and WR Conner Vernon. Moved S DeJon Gomes to injured reserve. Moved WR TJ Jones to PUP/reserve.

Lions Camp Report: Day 8

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • One of the more interesting things to come out of camp on Tuesday was watching Lions running back Reggie Bush running routes with the receivers and tight ends during part of the individual period instead of working with the running backs. This shouldn’t be too stunning, though, considering how Bush has been used in the past and how the Lions could use him this season. Bush ran 51 routes out of the slot last season and 37 routes while lined up out wide. Expect more of that this season if the Saints’ offense is any indication. Last season, Darren Sproles ran 93 routes out of the slot and 27 lined up out wide. If Bush is thrown into that role -- and it would be likely he would be -- then it would not be surprising to see him used in the slot fairly often. It also adds up because one of the things stressed by this coaching staff from running backs is running precise routes.
  • It was another good day for the Lions kickers. Giorgio Tavecchio and Nate Freese appeared to make all of their field goal attempts Tuesday, although it was somewhat difficult to tell without officials signaling in the end zone. Wednesday could be an interesting test for both of them since it will be their first time kicking inside Ford Field, where they will also be Saturday night for the preseason opener against Cleveland.
  • Ezekiel Ansah worked some more Tuesday as he continues to slowly move closer to being removed from the active PUP list and actually being able to practice with his teammates. He did individual work on the side for another practice, and Lions coach Jim Caldwell indicated “he’s progressing well.”

    “They keep ramping up his activity,” Caldwell said. ‘He hasn’t had setbacks so we feel good about where he is.”

    He is one of three players who sat out practice Tuesday along with receiver TJ Jones, who is still on the active PUP list, and offensive tackle Michael Williams, who has missed five straight practices due to injury.
  • Alex Bullard was somewhat surprising Tuesday during practice. He worked with the first team during a red zone period at left guard, spelling Rob Sims. The Lions have appeared to be careful with the reps for both Sims and center Dominic Raiola throughout the early portion of camp. Raiola did not do much work Tuesday, either, being replaced by Travis Swanson. Caldwell said he will give veterans days off from time to time to give them some rest during a long training camp to ensure health during the season. That said, Bullard looked decent during his run with the top unit. He’s still a longshot to make the roster at this point, but he offers interesting position flexibility since he worked at all five offensive line positions during his time at Notre Dame and Tennessee.
  • Cornerback Jonte Green put together another good practice, especially in one-on-one drills, registering a pass breakup. Considering the questions at the bottom of the depth chart at cornerback, Green could be putting himself in position to secure a roster spot at some point.
  • The Lions practice again Wednesday night at Ford Field at 7:30 p.m. The practice is open to the public.

Lions Camp Report: Day 6

August, 2, 2014
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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.

Camp preview: Detroit Lions

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
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» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

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.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – There is now one day left.

The Detroit Lions finished up the second day of their mandatory minicamp Wednesday and it was probably the most balanced day the team has had during their sessions. After the first two weeks of open practices where the defense was dominant and the last couple of practices where the offense has been better, neither group seemed to take over the practice.

Johnson
That might be a good sign for the Lions that the offense is catching up to the defense even if both sides of the ball were without key contributors. Here are some thoughts, notes and observations from the day.
  • A decent amount of players missed practice Wednesday. Wide receiver TJ Jones, cornerback Chris Houston and linebacker Stephen Tulloch were not spotted at practice. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), guard Rob Sims, wide receiver Golden Tate (shoulder), wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, running back Mikel Leshoure and running back Joique Bell (knee) all sat out practice. Ansah, Tate and Bell were expected. Sims has missed team drills all offseason, as had Glover Quin, who only worked in individual drills Wednesday.
  • Jason Jones appears to be slowly moving back to health. He seemed more active Wednesday than he has during past open practices, including working some with the first unit. He is still coming back from a ruptured patella tendon suffered last season, but he will be a contender for the closed defensive end spot in the fall opposite Ansah on the defensive line.
  • Player of the practice: For the second straight day, it is Calvin Johnson. Any question about Johnson’s health are now gone. He was once again the best player on the field and caught everything around him. He appears to be completely over his injuries and has his timing with Matthew Stafford down once again. He beat any cornerback the Lions lined up against him during 1-on-1 periods and on one play leapt over DeAndre Levy to catch a pass that he ended up running in for a touchdown.
  • During those 1-on-1 drills between defensive backs and receivers, the receivers clearly won the day. They had at least six completions to start the drill, including Kris Durham reaching out to make a difficult catch in front of Darius Slay. Corey Fuller also beat Aaron Hester on a post route that was pretty impressive.
  • Sequence of the day: Two impressive plays in a row. First, safety James Ihedigbo jumped a route from Stafford to Brandon Pettigrew to break up the pass. It was a great break on the ball by Ihedigbo. Stafford followed it up, though, with a perfectly threaded ball to Patrick Edwards into a small window over safety Don Carey. It was the best throw Stafford made on the day.
  • Carey is starting to really emerge as the probable third safety, although this is not unexpected. He once again filled in for Quin during team drills and has been a decent presence back there. In the secondary, Jonte Green is the one player who doesn’t seem to be getting as many reps as one might think.
  • As they did Tuesday, Rodney Austin and rookie Travis Swanson both took first-team reps at guard and center. While Austin worked some at center Tuesday, Swanson was there Wednesday. In some ways, this is a test from Jim Caldwell to see if both of them can play both guard and center, something imperative for a reserve interior lineman. With Sims out, Austin has spent the majority of spring working with the first team at left guard.
  • This is getting repetitive, but Theo Riddick continues to be impressive. He seems a little faster than last season and might have improved more than anyone else on the roster from last season. He is putting himself in position to have a real role in this offense this season after being primarily a backup in 2013.
  • Written about Eric Ebron’s drops here a bit, so worth noting when he makes the type of catch the Lions drafted him for. He extended on what looked like a poorly thrown ball to stretch in front of safety Isa Abdul-Quddus to make the grab before hitting the ground. It is one of the best catches he has made in the open practice setting this spring.
  • With Tulloch not in attendance, Tahir Whitehead took a lot of the first-team snaps at linebacker next to Levy. He was pretty active there. While he is primarily a special-teams standout – he’ll end up having a roster spot because of his special-teams play – that the Lions staff inserted him there behind Tulloch would appear to indicate he is having a pretty good spring. After practice, Caldwell cited how Whitehead controls the movement of other players in that space as one of the reasons they like him behind Tulloch.
  • Really good day for Sam Martin. The second-year punter had some help with the wind, but he crushed almost all of his punts. It is tough to see yard lines because of how the Lions’ outdoor practice fields are set up, but he said after practice one of his punts went over 80 yards and had a few go at least 70 yards. He said his shortest on the day was 63 yards. Strong day for him.

Lions offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

 
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.
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.

Corner a concern for the Lions

February, 13, 2014
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The joke starts something like this. It is the first round of an NFL draft. The Detroit Lions, again, have a high selection. So of course, the team will take a receiver.

Never mind the team has not taken a wide receiver in the first round since Calvin Johnson in 2007. This is the way Detroit is viewed when it comes to the draft even if it is an outdated notion. And while receiver is a need in May's draft and the Lions may end up going there in the first round, there is a bigger concern with the Lions.

The team still has issues finding capable guys to defend them.

[+] EnlargeDarius Slay
AP Photo/Dave MartinDarius Slay, whom the Lions selected in the second round last year, had an up-and-down rookie season at cornerback.
The Lions are once again looking for a cornerback in May's NFL draft, potentially as a first-round selection. While the team hasn't used a first-round pick on a corner since 1998, when the team drafted Terry Fair at No. 20, it could happen in May.

This has to be part of the reason Detroit went with Teryl Austin as its new defensive coordinator. Austin coached defensive backs for the majority of his career. And new coach Jim Caldwell believes defensive backs -- and the way they see the field -- are similar to quarterbacks.

For defensive backs, everything happens in front of them and they are often the last line of protection against big plays, so they see everything. With cornerbacks, Austin has a specific type he is looking for.

"You have to try and get, if you can, a bigger cornerback," Austin said. "A guy that can match up with the big receivers, a guy who has some physical toughness to him that's not afraid to tackle and a guy that has great ball skills.

"I think because of the amount of throwing in the game, if you have a guy that can't intercept the ball, teams will attack him because they know he won't intercept it. The best he's going to do is maybe knock it down. But if you have a guy that can intercept the ball and change the game, I think that's what you want."

This has been a particular problem in Detroit. Since 2001, the Lions are tied for second-to-worst in the NFL with interceptions by defensive backs with 138.

Austin's prototype for cornerbacks has always been taller equals better. In his three years in Baltimore and then his time in Arizona before that, he only had one cornerback shorter than 6-feet tall -- Lardarius Webb. Webb, though, was the exception for Austin.

As the Lions approach corners in this draft, the potential top target -- Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert -- fits those criteria. He is a hair over 6-feet at 6-foot 1/4 and has long arms and the capability to make big plays. Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State (5-foot-11 3/4), Bradley Roby from Ohio State (5-11 1/8), Florida's Loucheiz Purifoy (6-0) and Marcus Roberson (5-11 1/2) are other corners who could get early looks from the Lions as they all possess good hands and at least decent size.

But the Lions have spent multiple picks on cornerbacks since 2010 with differing levels of success. Having good corners has been an issue for Detroit for over a decade and no matter how the team has tried to fix the problem, it hasn't worked out too well. Amari Spievey, the Iowa cornerback the team drafted in the third round in 2010, ended up at safety and is no longer with the team.

Bill Bentley, the team's third-round pick in 2012, has been inconsistent. Chris Greenwood, the team's fifth-round pick that year, barely played. Jonte Green, the team's sixth-round pick in 2012, played more as a rookie than he did in 2013.

Last season's cornerback selection, second-rounder Darius Slay, won the starting job out of camp but lost it two games into the season to Rashean Mathis. By the end of the year, Slay showed signs of progress, in part due to the veteran who replaced him.

"He did it the right way where he'll be able to take care of his family and he took care of his body and stuff he just tells me, how to stay in the league long, has always helped out," Slay said toward the end of the 2013 season. "From a rookie standpoint, he's probably the best guy I've ever been around to continue to help pushing me forward."

Mathis helped teach Slay -- and some of the other cornerbacks -- about preparation and being a pro, something those cornerbacks clung to, particularly Slay. Austin seemed particularly encouraged by the development of Slay, while saying he has a lot of "growing pains," he sees potential for a good corner in the future. Some of that has to do with Mathis, and one of the underrated parts of his signing was the work he did with them.

There is no guarantee he will return due to Detroit's cap issues, Mathis' age and his status as an unrestricted free agent next month.

This leads to the other issues Detroit has had with corners -- and why the position is again a priority.

"In the NFL," Austin said. "You can't have enough corners."

The problem for the Lions over the past decade is finding enough good enough corners at all. Dre Bly was the team's last-best free agent cornerback signing, and that was in 2003.

Chris Houston came to Detroit after the 2009 season, but after three good seasons, his production dipped in 2013 and at one point he was benched. Drayton Florence came in for one season in 2012 but was mostly injured and had a fairly unproductive season.

Eric Wright, one of the better corners to sign with Detroit in free agency, had a decent 2011 season but left for Tampa Bay following the year.

So while receiver may attract the attention and some of the drafting scorn, paying attention to what Detroit does with the guys who defend those opposing receivers could be one of the keys to the Lions' hopes in 2014.

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.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Calvin Johnson missed practice for the third straight day for the Detroit Lions, lending credence to the theory he won't play in Sunday's season finale against Minnesota.

He was one of seven Lions to miss the final practice of the season, joining linebacker DeAndre Levy, cornerbacks Jonte Green and Bill Bentley, safety Louis Delmas, defensive lineman Israel Idonije and offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle.

Offensive lineman Dylan Gandy returned to practice, as did cornerback Chris Houston and safety John Wendling.

Seven miss practice for the Lions

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
4:20
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions were without four starters at practice Thursday, including star wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who continues to battle knee problems.

Also missing were cornerbacks Bill Bentley (concussion) and Chris Houston (toe/illness), offensive linemen Dylan Gandy (illness) and LaAdrian Waddle (ankle), safety John Wendling (ankle) and linebacker DeAndre Levy (foot).

Five players were limited in practice: running back Joique Bell (knee), cornerbacks Jonte Green (shoulder) and Darius Slay (knee), safety Louis Delmas (knee) and defensive end Israel Idonije (knee).

Green is the only new name on the injury report; he was spotted with a giant bag of ice on his shoulder following practice.
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 -- Three halftime thoughts from Ford Field, where the Baltimore Ravens lead the Detroit Lions, 9-7.

Not a good night for Jonte Green: The replacement for Chris Houston and Darius Slay has not had the best night thus far. He's missed tackles, looked completely lost on a long pass to Torrey Smith and was called for a facemask penalty on the same play to Smith. The Lions, though, have used him on Smith more often than not in the game, which is somewhat surprising considering the experience Rashean Mathis has. Detroit doesn't really have any other option than Green, though, as Chris Greenwood has yet to play a defensive snap in the NFL.

Drops, drops, drops: Detroit's receivers spend some time after every practice working on catching extra passes, anything to cure the drops issues they have had the entire season. It didn't help Monday night. Detroit dropped three passes in the first half and the most surprising part of that is two of them were dropped by receiver Calvin Johnson, who had as many catches (two) as he did drops in the first half. Detroit needs more from Johnson and the receivers if they are going to rally in the second half.

Penalties have hurt Detroit. Again: The Lions have six penalties for 74 yards, but they came at incredibly bad times for the Lions. Three of the big penalties came on the final two drives of the half for Baltimore, giving the Ravens free field position to lead to two field goals. The killer penalty came on Louis Delmas, who was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Marlon Brown on a 3rd-and-8 that extended the Ravens' last drive of the half. Green's penalty was pretty bad as well considering he gave up the play at the same time.

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