The Detroit Lions corner group was a mix of good and bad, little of which was incredibly surprising.
Cornerback is an inherently lonely position. Every mistake a corner makes ends up on Football Night in America. If they bend the rules past their breaking point, the result is nearly as bad as if they failed completely. An offensive lineman or tight end can’t cost his team 45 yards. For the Detroit Lions, the Cornerback position has been everything between the worst position on the field, and the best. It has depended on the week or even the down.
Darius Slay has lived up to the nickname he gave himself. He has been the “Big Play” creator that Lions fans have been used to. A period in the middle of the year in which he was dealing with a knee injury led to some lower numbers than in previous seasons, but Slay is going to the pro-bowl. Even with the limited physical capabilities, Slay has his second-highest interception total and second most passes defended of his NFL career. The Lions defense had some problems during the 2018 season, but the impeccable play of Darius Slay was not among them.
Nevin Lawson did what he does, and what he gets paid to do. He provided a body in position to get the quarterback to look elsewhere. Lawson does not provide the big plays of Slay, but he does provide all of the little plays. that make a man coverage schemes work. He does not give up an easy catch in any part of the field. If anything he is too contentious, he perpetually leads the team in defensive holding and pass interference penalties. Nevin Lawson’s job as the number two corner is to get other teams to target the number three corner.
Speaking of Corners Moving to Safety
Quandre Diggs moved primarily to safety, and the Lions used a lot more three-safety looks in years past, but a sizable part of that is the disappointing seasons that the rest of this group had. Teez Tabor stands first among the many disappointing Lions this season.
I have detested this pick since the moment it was made. Only Bob Quinn is shocked that a corner with 4.7 speed can’t play at the NFL level. I have always hoped that I was wrong, or Tabor was injured more than we knew, or he had magical powers of some kind that would allow him to overcome not being faster than one of the offensive linemen I went to high school with. None of those things have shown any evidence of being true. Teez was bad, got benched, and may not make it to OTAs. He probably should not make it to OTA’s without a switch to safety.
Swing and a Miss
DeShawn Shead was another disappointment. He was Quinn’s insurance policy against Tabor not developing into a player. The problem with that idea is that he was coming off of a massive injury. The Lions paid a guy that played like a fourth corner second corner money. Free agency doesn’t fix problems, it just hides draft intent. That is of course unless you spend big. Shead was a swing and a miss from Quinn on every level.
Did You See That Kid? No.
Jamal Agnew looked good before he got injured, but he is a player that relies entirely on his breathtaking athleticism. We did not get a good enough look at him late in the year to make any rushes to judgment. He had a serious knee injury and that needs to be looked at when the team gets back into shorts at OTAs. If Agnew can play defense, and we have seen little evidence one way or the other on that, he will be a cornerstone of the team because of his special teams acumen. The jury is still out on Agnew’s future, but he will return.
Detroit Lions Corners in the Future
The rest of the Lions corner group don’t matter. They may come back, they may not, it doesn’t matter. Mike Ford looked good until teams had a single game of tape to watch, and they shredded him. He shares Agnew’s athleticism, and that will likely get him back to camp next year. Other than that I’m not wasting my time or yours on the rest of this group.
The Lions corner group going into the 2019 offseason looks a lot like it did going into the 2018 offseason. Top heavy rather than deep. If I were a betting man, I’d put money on the Lions going corner in the first three rounds, because Bob Quinn doesn’t tend to make the same mistake multiple seasons in a row. Not addressing this group seriously would be a mistake.