Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lions Congregation: Of Cornerbacks and Safeties

Lions Congregation: Of Cornerbacks and Safeties

August 29th, 2010 | by detfan1979 |

It is once again time for the Lions Congregation! This week, we return to the mailbox to discuss concerns regarding the secondary — something I feel will be a common theme as the season progresses. Have a question, concern or topic you’d like to see the Congregation address? Email

This week’s panel:

Phil of
Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience
Zac of The Sidelion Report
NetRat of The NetRat Detroit Lions Site
Blades Boyd formerly of the Church of Schwartz
Joshua aka DetFan1979 of Roar of the Lions

Question 1 is from Tim H. — What is with the move of Amari Spievey to Safety? Is he a bust already?

Phil: PLEASE don’t label anyone a bust yet. I know it’s tempting, but even if a guy really does look like a bust, rookies are way too young to declare them so. With that in mind, Spievey isn’t a bust. He may not be blowing anyone away with his performance so far, but the two things dictating the move were his skill set — the guy can really hit and knows how to bring a ball carrier down — and the ability for him to get more playing time as a safety. Who knows? The guy may end up being a bust. It’s just far too early to label him — good or bad — at this point.

Al: As a cornerback, apparently Spievey is a bust. A pretty big one at that, considering his 3rd round draft status.

But the Lions must have seen something in his skill set they think will transfer to the safety position…or Spievey really is a massive bust and the coaches are scrambling in the hope he can become useful at another position of even greater need.

Let’s hope it’s the first scenario, not the second.

Either way, it’s not very encouraging news in regard to either Spievey’s talent or the Lions’ secondary as a whole, if a fairly high draft pick is being moved to a new position more than halfway through the preseason.

If Spievey’s skills were better suited to be used at safety, then he should have been working out at safety during mini-camp and OTA’s. Why move him now, when time is of the essence? You’d think the coaches would have noticed Spievey’s skills not translating to corner in the NFL during those numerous OTA’s, right? I find it hard to believe the coaching staff just realized this, considering Spievey’s lack of playing time against the Steelers and Broncos.

Before we start throwing the “Bust” word around with malice aforethought, let’s see if Spievey will step in capably at safety. It’s not like the Lions are set at the position, save for Delmas…who’s trying to nurse his gimpy groin through camp. There’s no guarantee Delmas will be ready for the season opener, which is less than 2 1/2 weeks away.

Even if filling one need by creating another isn’t exactly the optimum way to fix the defensive backfield, it’s a better option than sending the Turk to collect Spievey’s playbook.

Zac: No player can be fairly labeled a bust before the regular season even begins. Let’s also remember that safety is a position of need for the Lions too. Spievey wasn’t working out as a solution at corner so the coaching staff felt it was time to see if he can fill a need at safety. This shouldn’t be a complete surprise considering the amount of zone coverage Spievey played with the Iowa Hawkeyes. The move to safety allows him to play more in space rather than worrying about man coverage so often.

NetRat: Most 1st round Cornerback picks don’t start in their rookie year. Many cornerbacks take 2 or even 3 years before they become starters regardless of round drafted in. Like Wide Receiver, it just takes time. Spievey has the tools to be a great Safety in the NFL and I believe he can also play Nickel Cornerback which might mean he will be seeing the field this year rather then being buried on the depth chart at cornerback (the starters being Wade and Houston). One could almost look at the move as a promotion… should it work out. The bust in this case is Mr King… and possibly Hefner as well since he also already made the move to Safety and yet the Lions seem to not be content with that. No, Spievey should not be considered a bust.

Blades: I think it’s to early to call Spievey a bust and I honestly believe this was a move the Lions knew they would have to make, although they didn’t want too. I think they were hoping he would come in to camp and surprise everyone and he be a solid CB of the future but obviously that didn’t happen and as a result they moved him to safety. I honestly beleive the Lions drafted him with the thoughts of him playing safety but they shot for the moon with him at CB and lost.

DetFan1979: Too early to say bust, but he certainly has a lot of potential for heading that way. The bad news is that he hasn’t shown diddly in the way of progressing into a starter or even a solid backup at CB in practices, and even less when I’ve seen him play in the preseason.

When they first drafted him, I felt his skill set more fit safety than CB. Hard hitter? Likes to tackle? Burst but not fast? Good in coverage but has trouble flipping the hips the and locating the ball? Sounds like a guy more suited to having above average cover skills for a safety, versus below average cover skills for a CB. We’ll have to see, I guess.

On the positive side, if Spievey can develop in a solid Safety – even a backup – as well as being able to play some CB for the team, or come in on nickel and dime situations in the flat on TE’s and RB’s it will not have been a wasted pick. It’s a big IF at this point, but keep in mind that Delmas is an anomaly — most secondary players, especially CB’s are like the WR position — it takes time to adjust to the NFL game. Lets cross our fingers and hope — but it’s still waaay to early to give. Hey, at least that Running Back bush that Mayhew shipped in from out west seems to be growing well…

Question 2 is from John G. — Cornerback was already weak. With Spievey at safety, do they make a move – and who is really left out there?

Phil: It’s common for fans to look at the team, see a problem and think, ”OK, why not fix it somehow?” Upgrade through free agency, trade, etc. That’s understandable, but it’s also not always realistic. A crappy corner doesn’t do you any good and you’re not going to see a lot of great CBs available in a trade — teams simply won’t let them go. After the third preseason game and then right after final cuts, the Lions will see who is available and that’s when they can decide to make a move. Even at that point, though, you’re likely find a diamond in the rough – deep, deep in the rough — or a vet who is a stopgap.

Al: Cornerback was already weak when Spievey was in the mix. It’s now scary weak, and there isn’t anyone out there for the Lions to pick up…yet.

I just hope to Hell we don’t see what happened last season with the secondary. The Lions spent the much of the ‘09 season picking up a waiver wire wonder off the street on Tuesday, and have him starting at corner on Sunday. More often than not, that same player would end up on IR or cut, only to be replaced by another waiver wire wonder the next Tuesday…when the ugly circle would begin again.

So I’m guessing the Lions do make a move, but the player (or players) are still on other NFL rosters at the moment.

There’s sure to be players of interest (and not just at cornerback) to the Lions after the cutdown to 75 players on August 31st, and when the final 53 man rosters are set on September 4th. As they’ll have waiver priority over every other NFL not named the Rams, the odds are damn good Martin Mayhew will get his man…or more likely, men.

Zac: I wouldn’t be surprised to see roster moves regarding the safety position up to and through the regular season. It is clearly an area of concern, especially with the unknown status of Delmas’ groin situation. The Lions have tried to substitute quantity for quality because very little quality is out there to be had. The choices will remain limited until the first round of roster cuts as there may be a player or two that isn’t good enough to stick with one of the other team but can be of use to the Lions. A trade is also a possibility but very hard to predict. The one thing we can be sure of is that Martin Mayhew will be active in adding to the talent level of this roster in any way he can.

NetRat: Free agents Cornerbacks are practically non-existant (except for the over 33 crowd… ie: practically retired). If the Lions haven’t got what they need on the roster they will be looking at the waiver wire, trades, and the cut down list in a week or so for more depth. Wade, Houston and I think Bly are likely going to make the team. That leaves 1 or possibly 2 spots wide open for a pickup or someone to step up into it. I personally think they have a short list of options but are waiting to see who is cut first before making any moves (and if they wait until after game 1 they don’t have to guarantee the salary of whoever they do sign).

Blades: The Lions are going to play this smart. Once roster cuts are made there will be a couple solid CB’s on the market and I promise you the Lions will be knocking at the door. Also, don’t be surprised at all to see Mayhew make one of his classic deals again by unloading a 5th round pick in the future for a young nickel corner with upside. It’ll happen

DetFan1979: Cornerback is as thin as a piece of paper run over by a steamroller – and that was before Spievey was moved to safety. Not to worry, however, as Martin Mayhew is just waiting for a few more NFL cornerbacks to finish developing before he plucks them off the Cornerback Tree he planted near Ford Field a couple of years ago, “just in case”.

Seriously, though, the Lions have real problems at CB. (See: King, Eric) Wade has a broken finger, and no one other than Houston has even looked remotely like an NFL CB. What choice do the Lions have at this point though? Unfortunately, not a whole lot. Even if they give up a fortune, no top CB’s are likely to be available for what the Lions are willing to pay, and it would be at least double what they are worth. A promising prospect or tow may be available after the first set of cutdowns on the 31st, or the final cutdowns after the 4th preseason game. Unfortunately, promising in this case means they have some upside , but not enough to make another team.

Most teams are not so deep at CB to let great prospects walk. Or even good ones. Or even…well, you get the drift. At this point, it is safe to say that the secondary – especially cornerback – will continue to be a major concern all season long.

Thank you for once again visiting with the Lions Congregation!!

Rating: 8.6/10 (8 votes cast)
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5 Responses to “Lions Congregation: Of Cornerbacks and Safeties”

  1. By NorthLeft12 on Aug 30, 2010

    Anyone who calls a third round pick a bust [a big one at that!] before the season starts is a dope. Period. Did people actually expect him to walk in and be a starting corner? Sounds like Al did.
    Sounds like most of the rest of your panel is a little more reality based than Al. I am still amazed at the overall negativity about the Lions this season. What did everyone expect? Pro bowlers at every position? Great strides have been made and we appear to have a competitive team at last. Save your wailing and crying for after the season.

    Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)
  2. By DetFan1979 on Aug 31, 2010

    Umm..Northleft, if you look back you will see that everyone on this panel is very happy with the direction Mayhew and Schwarz have taken this team. Also, pretty everyone pointed out that CB’s usually take a few years to develop

    This is a mailbag entry — we were addressing the questions asked and while mayhew has really shored up both depth and starters in many areas of the team, the fact is that the secondary is pretty atrocious. right now. in the future? That is a different story.

    I am confident that Mayhew can fix it just like he has the defensive and offensive lines, wr, etc. if we give him enough time.

    He can only do so much, and this area is still weak. Ackowleding that doesn’t dampen or take away our enthusiasm for how awesome the offense has looked form top to bottom, as well as the defensive line looking pro-bowl caliber.

    The Lions aren’t there yet, but they are driving about 100mph in the right direction

    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  3. By nubsnobber on Sep 1, 2010

    I really think Spievey is going to be a specialist/hybrid.

    He is going to be a nickel bitch. I wouldn’t call him a safety, but he’ll be the fifth back to cover Hbacks and smaller, pass catching TE’s.

    Why? Caleb Campbell is flipping to a more traditional LB in practice to fill in for obvious voids.

    Watch last game and see Spieveys delay blitz. Now, add that to the Bears weak left tackle, Mike Martz propencity to have his QBs hold the ball, and Gunther Cunninghams foot on the gas pedal.

    JJ Lions may want to watch out for the guy with the Lions “D” in week 1

    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  4. By NorthLeft12 on Sep 1, 2010

    DetFan, Sorry, I did not mean to imply that the whole panel was negative and had written off Spievey already. Al did. And I don’t mean to say that Mayhew is perfect and has only selected/signed solid players. The negativity comment is about the Fan base and the “media” who continually harp on the weakness/lack of depth of the secondary and LBs. Yeah, it does not look great right now, but I think the Lions have made some changes albeit with limited resources. We will see how it plays out this year. I for one am more than prepared to take a chance with what we have or can get shortly, then fix it nest offseason. I don’t hear a lot of that from Detroit fans and media right now.
    By the way, thanks for responding to my comment and keep up the good work on your blog. It is usually a good read and a regular stop of mine.

    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
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