By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – After the Detroit Lions secondary struggled in 2013, it upset many fans that the Lions drafted a tight end, a linebacker and a center before taking cornerback Nevin Lawson in the fourth round. At the time, the Lions evidently still planned on the return of veteran Chris Houston, whom they released later in the offseason in part due to a persistent toe injury.
Before the start of Lions training camp Monday, general manager Martin Mayhew declined to say whether the Lions would have handled the draft differently had they known then that Houston would not be an option.
“That’s a hard question,” Mayhew said. “You never know how guys are going to go with injuries, especially something as serious as what Chris had. I anticipated that he would get healthy sooner. That didn’t happen, and so you move on. We’ve got some young guys here that I’m excited to see play.
“Darius Slay, I expect a good performance from him,” Mayhew continued. “He’s got to even out his performance. He had some plays last year where he looked really good, like he belonged. He made some big-time plays for us, but other times he looked like a rookie. So he’s got to even out his performance. Bill Bentley, (Chris) Greenwood, Jonte Green, Nevin Lawson, those guys are guys who played good football for us.”
Slay, coming off his rookie season, still has almost as much game experience as anyone on that list, having played in 13 games last season. Bentley, entering his third year, played in four games in 2012 and 13 games in 2013. Fellow third-year player Greenwood, hampered by hernias, has played in just three games over the span two seasons. Green also has two seasons under his belt, and he played in nine games in 2013 after getting into 15 games in 2012. Lawson is a rookie.
Despite speaking optimistically about the youth at the position, Mayhew conceded that in the team’s unending search for upgrades, the secondary is an area of particular interest.
“We’re shopping for everything,” Mayhew said. “We’re always trying to get our football team better. Defensive backs, linebackers, defensive line, offensive line, every position. We’re talking to people around the league about making moves and trades and are trying to upgrade all of the time. It never stops. It’s never-ending.
“We control the situation where we feel comfortable everywhere,” Mayhew added, “but certainly secondary is a place we would look.”