By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Whether or not the Detroit Lions will draft a cornerback in 2014, there is no doubt that they need to be better at the position in 2014, and general manager Martin Mayhew discussed as much in a press conference Monday.
As usual, improvement is easier preached than achieved, particularly with veteran Chris Houston still trying to heal from an injury that plagued him last year. Mayhew did not rule out surgery for Houston.
“I think the longer it goes, I think the more concerned you get,” Mayhew said. “Something happened back in August, November, that we’re still dealing with, so there’s a concern there. I guess we’ll see what happens.”
Houston’s health issues could mean the Lions are more likely to take a corner in the draft. It almost certainly means Detroit will rely more heavily on the players they already have under contract, especially the young players. Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green are all entering their third year, and Darius Slay is beginning his second season.
Mayhew expressed confidence in them but also noted that their time to prove themselves is running out.
“Those guys that you’re talking about in Bentley, Greenwood, Jonte Green, Slay, I think the important thing is are they on the right trajectory, are they showing progress every single year, are they improving?” Mayhew said. “Some guys walk in from day one and they got it, and they just step on the field and they got it. Some guys take a year. Some guys take two years. Doesn’t take more than two years. It doesn’t.
“If you don’t have it in three years, you don’t have it,” Mayhew continued. “This is a big year for those guys, I think. It’s a big year to see where they are. I like what I’ve seen thus far. We haven’t seen a whole lot, but those guys should develop and should be good players for us.”
The Lions added veteran Rashean Mathis to the group last season, and even as a longtime NFL starter, he stated numerous times that he considered it a major part of his role to assist those younger guys in their development.
Bentley and Slay both played in 13 games in 2013, while Green played in nine, and Greenwood played in three. None of them had an interception, though Green picked off a pass in 2012. Slay finished with 34 tackles, Bentley ended up with 29, Green had nine and Greenwood had six. While the group contributed, inconsistency was an issue.
Detroit’s defense gave up 246.9 passing yards per game in 2013, ranking in the bottom third of the league.
Several big-time college cornerbacks who should be available to the Lions in Thursday’s draft include Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard (whom ESPN’s Todd McShay has Detroit selecting in the latest version of his mock draft) and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert. While Mayhew did not talk about either player specifically, he listed the attribute he most wants in a cornerback.
“The most important thing to me is competitiveness,” Mayhew said. “You’ve got to have that guy that doesn’t want anybody catching any balls on him ever – in practice, in walkthrough, whatever, and we’re looking for a guy that has that kind of mentality. A lot of them have different physical attributes, but the mentality is the most important thing in corner.”