Daniel Bullocks… you couldn’t stay on the field. You had great potential, but it was negated by persistent injuries. Marquand Manuel… at least you got a $50,000 signing bonus to come back to camp for a while.
Yes, there is no safety at safety right now for the Lions. Randy Phillips was signed as an UDFA and thrown right in with the 1’s after just three days with Delmas still out. Most likely, they were looking to get some film on him so they can develop him, though some reports coming out of camp indicate he is solidly in 3rd place in the safety dance derby right now.
Of the two parts of the defensive secondary, it is Safety that worries me most right now. IF Phillips develops, then they could have the solid starter they need next to Delmas. That’s one mighty big IF even my Honolulu blue tinted glasses has trouble seeing. For now, it appears that CC Brown is the “other” safety with Simpson still on the PUP list. IF Simpson and Delmas were healthy, it would be another matter. Simpson did well at times last year, and showed some potential to be at least an average starter across from Delmas. After the injuries, though, will he go the way of Daniel Bullocks?
So who, exactly, ARE the Lions’ Safeties? Lets take a gander at the roster:
39 C.C. Brown S 6-0 208 6 Louisiana-Lafayette
26 Louis Delmas S 5-11 202 2 Western Michigan
43 Randy Phillips S 6-1 210 R Miami
30 Ko Simpson S 6-1 202 5 South Carolina
25 Marvin White S 6-1 199 4 Texas Christian
Considering they will likely keep 4 safeties, can you say “thinner than a sheet of cheap toilet paper”? Now, we must also remember that there are two other defensive backs who have been playing at safety -
33 Jonathan Hefney CB 5-9 185 1 Tennessee
41 Dante Wesley CB 6-1 215 8 Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Still, with the injuries at CB, that position is also severely limited. For the time being, I’m going to assume that the 5 guys listed as safeties will be the ones that the Lions are looking at for now for the position long term.
CC Brown — He started for four eyars for hte texans, and was signed by the Giants last year to a one year deal. He was meant to be depth, but got pushed into a starting role again after Kenny Phillips was injured. Giants fans nicknamed him “Can’t Cover” Brown, although how much of that was him, and how much was the decimated Giants Defensive Line and overall defensive struggles in general remains to be seen. His time in Houston was that of a decent but unspectacular starter — the definition of “average at best”. He’s very fast though, and has gotten quite a bit of work with the first team. Will he make strides and fill that vacant #2 safety role?
Louis Delmas — Not a lot needs to be said here about his talent level. When healthy he has all-pro talent. The key is that ever pesky “when healthy” phrase, since he hasn’t been. Currently he’s on his way to being more of the next Bob Sanders than the next Troy Polamalu. Delmas makes astounding plays when he is on the field — he just needs to get on the field, and stay there.
Randy Phillips — This guy is a mystery of sorts. Normally, he might have been a mid-late round Safety prospect; the kind of guys that work as depth for a while and work their way into larger roles, or play special teams for a few years and are out of the league — a developmental slot where a lot of solid starters at safety are chosen. However, an injury that barred him from only recently passing a physically with the Lions led him to go undrafted. The Lions coaches and scouts seem to like him and under Mayhew have already started forming a solid reputation of having the knack to find late round contributors (Zack Follett, Sammie Hill) We’ll have to see if the Lions have finally found an undrafted free agent diamond in the rough.
Ko Simpson — A late round pick brought him to Detroit last season as the weakness at safety just couldn’t be addressed any other way at that point. He played fairly well on the whole,although I still think of him as better depth than starting caliber. With the situation the Lions have at safety with talent in such short supply, if healthy I would have him pencilled in as the starter next to Delmas. He is not healthy — nor is he expected to be anytime soon. If he doesn’t start the season still on the PUP list and miss at least the first 6 games, I would be surprised. When he returns, the big keys will be if he can be better than he was before the injury and develop further, and if a player like Phillips has stepped up to the plate and cemented the second safety spot.
Marvin White — Marvin was a solid addition who had good times and bad times in the Lions secondary last season. Another post camp signing, he performed well for being tossed into the fire. I see snatches of potential here and there, but they are too infrequent for my liking. He may end up in heavy rotation — especially if Delmas stays nicked up — and I’m hoping the light turns on and he makes great strides.
Essentially the entire safety positions has questions of potential, durability, and talent. There isn’t a single player without at least one question mark (most multiple) and that is not a good thing. While much of the Lions roster has been deepened depth wise and improved, the defensive secondary — especially Safety — shows that Martin Mayhew can only do so much, so quickly. A lot of work is left to be done.