Cornerback Jamal Agnew Could Possibly See An Expanded Role For The Detroit Lions In 2018
Last year, when I was covering the 2017 NFL Draft and the Detroit Lions took cornerback Jamal Agnew in the fifth round I was furious. The team already drafted cornerback Teez Tabor in the second round, there wasn’t a need for another cornerback, especially one this late in the draft. Odds were he wouldn’t make the team.
Then Agnew was able to get on the field.
He would finish his rookie year as an All-Pro, with 11 kick returns for 196 yards, and 29 punt returns for 447 yards and two touchdowns. In both punt return categories, he was first in the NFL. I was certainly wrong about Agnew and I am not afraid to admit it. He was a great pick in the fifth round for the Lions and a solid kick/punt returner. What if I told you that he is just more than a return man though? He played cornerback at San Diego and was damn good at it.
Jamal Agnew – Detroit Lions Starting CB?
Not likely. Don’t get me wrong, during his time at the University of San Diego, Agnew was a stud at cornerback, finishing his career with 59 pass deflections – a San Diego record – 148 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 11 interceptions, a fumble recovery, two-time team defensive MVP, two-time second-team All-Pioneer Football League member and one first-team All-Pioneer Football League appearance.
While his role as a cornerback hasn’t transferred too much into the NFL, 2018 could be the year he sees more of that position. The cornerback position is the one with the most depth on defense, with players showing up in training camp and preseason, Agnew is one of them fighting for playing time.
Agnew will be the punt returner and split time at kick returner, but don’t expect him to start at cornerback. Instead, he will be fighting for playing time at the number three role, and possibly in the slot. While another cornerback, Quandre Diggs, is switching between that slot corner role and safety, Agnew could take his spot if he can impress the rest of the preseason. He only has two tackles and a pass deflection in the preseason so far, so while nothing earth-shattering has happened for him, he could still fight for that role.
Head coach Matt Patricia likes to also keep fresh legs on the field, as we saw in training camp he had many rotations and brought in new guys on certain situations; that is where Agnew could see his expanded role. He could be used inside the slot against a shifty wide receiver, or on the outside against a speed demon who is running a go route.
Either way, Agnew is somebody to watch the rest of the preseason and Patricia will certainly keep him in mind when it comes to playing cornerback this year, instead of just a return man.