The Lions Congregation this week goes back to the mailbag again – this time, with a question regarding the secondary. Do you have a question or thoughts you would like to see panel talk about or answer? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Reader N. Jackson asks: I’ve heard it takes 3 years for defensive backs to hit their stride. any chance we see Houston and Wade take their game to the next level? They both seem hungry enough and willing to put in the work. I know very little about either player. Any insight would be appreciated. On a side note, I think Ko Simpson will be a solid starter next to Delmas if he can stay healthy.
Al: Is there a chance? Sure. There’s always a chance. There’s also a chance there’s a unicorn crapping out sunshine and rainbows in my living room while I write this. Anything’s possible, right?
Both Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade are going into their 4th NFL seasons. In many ways, it’s a make or break season for the cornerback tandem. Both were found wanting by their previous teams, and are getting a fresh start with the Lions…a team desperate for a corners.
Will they step up, given the opportunity? Possibly. They’re definitely a step or 3 up from the stiff of the week the Lions were pulling off the street every Tuesday, and trotting out to play corner the following Sunday. They started for their previous teams for a reason. They were let go for a reason as well.
At the very least, Houston and Wade will add depth to a position that as has none. Literally, none. If anyone is going to shore up the corner position, it’s going to be the 3rd round draft pick out of Iowa, Amari Spivey. I believe his being available in the draft was a big reason why the Lions walked away from Pacman Jones. If Spivey is not starting in September, I’ll be hugely surprised…and so will the Lions.
As for Ko Simpson, he’s just one of a cast of thousands hoping to play next to Louis Delmas this season. He could be a solid starter, but he’s got to beat out Marquand Manuel, C.C. Brown and Daniel Bullocks, all of whom have also started in the NFL, let alone whomever else the Lions decide to bring into camp.
Simpson did show flashes of competence last season before he was injured. But I’m going to have to see lots more from Simpson before I consider him the front runner for the job. I’m guessing Jim Schwartz is starting with a level playing field, whomever has the best camp gets to start next to the best Lions safety since Bennie Blades was destroying receivers and dropping sure interceptions.
What is…Oooh, a rainbow!
Blades: Thanks for the question Jackson. This is a great question because I’m sure it’s something all Lions fans are wondering. In my opinion, Houston has what it takes. Once the Lions sign a free agent I have a bad habit and going back and watching every game they played in the from the past season and Houston reminds me alot of Fernando Bryant mixed in with some Dre Bly. Houston had a couple plays last year where he came up to support the run and just crushed the RB, just like Bryant used to do. He also has some decent cover skills however there were a couple times he took some chances and got burnt deep, just like Bly used to do.
As for Wade, I’m not so sure. He’s real good in a nickel package which is great for us because I really think Spivey can step in and start. As for Ko Simpson, I agree with you. I always liked him when he played for the Bills and if he can stay healthy I think he’ll be real good player opposite of Delmas.
All this being said, there’s little doubt this is the biggest question mark going into the season and if they can pick it up, there’s no reason the Lions can’t win 6 games this year.
NetRat: I’m afraid I’m not going to be of much help on this question. I think that Delmas will improve from his rookie season, and that’ll be fun to watch. I also think that the improved (yep, assuming here) dline will help the secondary regardless who is playing in the secondary. What I do not know is how the new bodies in the secondary will fair in Gunther’s system, nor do I know how they each will fair personally. They could step it up, they could show why they were expendable, they could be mediocre. If the rookie CB drafted by the Lions wins a starting CB job, then I guess we’ll know they (the free agents and traded guys) were just bodies given a chance and that they aren’t good enough to start for the Lions.
I’d love to be all kool-aid and cornbread here, but the truth is, I simply just do not know how it (the secondary) will turn out this year.
DetFan1979: The secondary should be better this year, but it has nothing to do with who is running around back there. Rather, it has to do with who is running around in front of them — the Defensive Line. IF the Dline lives up to it’s potential even halfway with Williams/Suh/Hill at DT and KVB/Hunter/Avril/DeVries/McBride at DE — then the secondary will be better by default since the opposing quarterbacks won’t have a day and a half to throw. Opposing QB’s had over a 106 QB rating on average against the Lions last season, and most of it had to do with a lack of pressure. Most QB’s look good in 7 on 7 drills, which is essentially what the opposing offenses were playing much of last season.
As for the guys themselves, I’m projecting Spievy and Houston to start, with Wade in the nickle and in rotation. How will they do? All three are a mystery at this point. Houston was the epitome of average in Atlanta; even if he maintains that here, it would be welcome to have in a Lions defensive backfield that hovered between cover-your-eyes awful and what do you mean there are CB’s on the field, I don’t see any. Wade never was able to catch into a solid starting role. Rookies are rookies: unknown.
What the Lions did in the secondary this year is pretty much what they did with Williams on the Dline, and Sims on the Oline — get guys cheap that didn’t “fit the system” where they were, but could fit better with what the Lions do. Whether that will happen remains to be seen — it is a question that will not be answered until the season gets underway.
As for Safety, Simpson is coming off microfracture surgery, so Bullocks right now seems to be a contender among many in the “who will be the 2nd starting safety derby.” The Detroit News currently has Delmas and Hefney with the 1’s at Thurday’s OTA, and Bullocks and CC Brown with the 2’s. I expect this to change early and often this ifseason — hopefully, the competition will bring out the best in everyone. Still, there is an “if healthy” issue with both Simpson and Bullocks — the top two contenders — that adds even more uncertainty to the mix.
The secondary is a question that will be unanswerable until at least the preseason, and most likely the regular season. There is just too much uncertainty to predict.
Thank you once again everyone for joining the Lions Congregation — if you have a question, a thought, stories, or opinions on the Lions past and present email us at email@example.com