After rooting into the Safety discussion to round out last week, it is only natural to look at the other half of the defensive backfield -- the Cornerback position.
Ouch. Once again, lets recap what I was thinking last year... wait. I didn't think much at all of the corners last ifseason! As a matter of fact, other than mentioning that at one point they only had one CB under contract, Ramzee Robinson, I didn't say a whole lot.
Essentially, it broke down to 4 players were going to be on the team, battling to start but I wasn't exactly thrilled with any of them -- Fisher, Kelly, Bodden, and Keith Smith. Smith, I thought, was better man-to-man than in zone. I also rightly thought that Stanley Wilson would end up cut.
Zip forward 4 INTS and 12 months later, what do the Lions have at CB?
Lets visit the Lions depth chart as of today and see! (and also check out their article on the secondary)
Age Name Height Weight Age Years College
31 Buchanon, Phillip 5-11 186 28 8 Miami (Fla.)
32 Henry, Anthony 6-1 207 32 8 South Florida
29 King, Eric 5-10 185 26 5 Wake Forest
33 Roberson, Chris 5-11 190 25 4 Eastern Michigan
38 Robinson, Ramzee 5-10 186 24 3 Alabama
41 Smith, Antonio 5-9 192 24 1 Ohio State
23 Smith, Keith 5-11 191 27 6 McNeese State
30 Wynn, Dexter 5-9 175 28 5 Colorado State
Quick - without clicking on their bios, who was with the Lions in 2008? Answer: 4 of the last 5 listed (Antonio Smith was just recently signed). Roberson, Robinson, K. Smith and Wynn all saw action on the 0-16 squad.
The Bad news?? Half of the CB's on the roster were part of a secondary on a team that had 4 INTs TOTAL last season...
The good news?? They are the bottom half.
I see the Lions carrying 4 or 5 CB's into the season, depending on how other battles go. I also have a feeling that at least one of the opening day CB's is not yet on the team.
As of right now, I (like most) have Henry and Buchanan pegged as the starters. Eric King is an excellent Nickle Back, something that appears validated thus far in ifseason workouts. Not looking too good for our other 5 contestants fighting for 1 or 2 spots.
I say they keep 3 additional, only because Henry will be the "5th" guy -- able to start at S or CB if needed. If Henry makes a permanent shift to S, they will carry 5 S as they will shift Henry back to CB in case of injury.
So who do I like among the 5 remaining candidates? Keith Smith and Ramzee Robinson, come on down. Keith Smith is at worst a solid backup, at best could be a starter or in man-on-man situations where speed and cover ability are paramount -- that is where he really excels. Smith is also a very solid special teams player, and that locks him into one of the backup roles in my mind.
At this point with what is on the roster, Robinson would be the best of the rest -- but shouldn't rest easy as I think the Lions will be scouring the waivers as roster limit cuts are made heading into and during camp. The odds of them finding someone better than Ramzee are, thankfully, quite high.
Change in scheme could make a big difference on the secondary but in the end, if there is no pressure form the front 7 then they will get picked apart once again as QB's coming to Detroit look to set their career QB rating records...
The backfield is solid but unspectacular, and could be easily exposed by weaknesses up front. It won't be as bad as last year -- but isn't that kind of like saying "Hey - you only had your foot chopped off! A Lot better than when you lost you entire left arm, huh?"