By Chris Morgan
In 2004, Dre Bly made the Pro Bowl. That was the last time a Detroit Lions’s cornerback made that game. In 1969, Lem Barney was an All-Pro. He was the last cornerback for the Lions to earn that distinction. Bryant Westbrook and Terry Fair: Both of those players were defensive backs taken with first round picks. Neither panned out.
The Detroit Lions are currently 2-4, and they have question marks in the secondary yet again. Why have the Lions failed to address this issue, generally speaking? Why have the Lions routinely struggled in the secondary?
Granted, you don’t need an All-Pro to have a good secondary. You don’t need a shutdown cornerback like Darrelle Revis, although it’d be great for Detroit to have a player like that. Additionally, and admittedly, the Lions actually weren’t all that bad against the pass last season, but last year’s secondary was the best the Lions have had in a while. Eric Wright was here for a year and then left. Chris Houston is pretty good. Bill Bentley may have potential. Plus, the New England Patriots have often had success, despite having bad secondaries. They have also had great offensive lines, a great coach, and one of the best quarterbacks the league has ever seen. So, Detroit could always take that route.
However, they could also try and fix their secondary, and to try and actually add a legitimate number one cornerback. It is the area with the least amount of talent on their team currently, or at least it is in a battle with running back, and Jahvid Best’s injury plays a bit part in that. Truthfully, they haven’t seemed to really care all that much about building a strong secondary. Occasionally, they add a good player through free agency, but that may not be a viable option going forward. With a salary cap, and with a lot of big money players on the roster, adding the rare top notch cornerback who makes it to free agency would be nigh impossible.
Fortunately, first round draft picks are now a more palatable financial option. Detroit added their tackle of the future last year in Riley Reiff. Running backs are fungible. As such, if the Lions want to be shrewd, when they are on the clock in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft–and right now it looks like they may have a pretty high pick–if they ever want to have the chance to add an elite cornerback to their defense, that would be the time to do it. Trying to rely on their defensive line and Louis Delmas staying healthy probably doesn’t cut it for a team with playoff hopes.
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Chris has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports “expert.” His work can be found on Examiner.com.