CB competition heats up in third exhibition
AUG 22, 2012 4:27p ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The third preseason game in the NFL is generally considered a dress rehearsal with the starters getting more playing time. For that reason, it will be interesting to see who gets the start at right cornerback for the Detroit Lions Saturday night when they face the Raiders in Oakland.
Will it be rookie Bill Bentley, who started the preseason opener? Will it be another newcomer, free-agent addition Jacob Lacey, who started the second preseason game? Or could it be Alphonso Smith, who some considered the favorite for the job when training camp opened because of his experience?
With the regular-season opener 18 days away, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was asked Wednesday when the Lions and head coach Jim Schwartz will settle on a starter at that position.
"We're going to let it play out," Cunningham said. "We've got a lot of personnel meetings within the next week and a half. Jim's involved, as are all the personnel people and the coaches. We'll have to make the decision at the right time."
A strong performance in Saturday's game by whoever does start - quite possibly Bentley - could solidify that job for the opener. However, the competition appears close enough that it could turn into a revolving door if there's not enough consistency shown.
The Lions lost starting cornerback Eric Wright during the offseason when he signed a free-agent deal with Tampa Bay. Wright was the only starter from last year who didn't return to the team this season.
Aaron Berry appeared to be Wright's heir apparent throughout the offseason program, but Berry was released shortly before training camp following his second arrest in a month. That opened up the job for Bentley (a third-round draft pick out of Louisiana Lafayette), Lacey (a former Indianapolis Colt), Smith (eight interceptions the last two seasons with the Lions) and rookie Jonte Green (sixth-round pick out of New Mexico State).
Chris Houston, who is locked in as the starting left corner, said the competition for the other job has been beneficial for all of those involved.
"It's making everybody step up," Houston said. "Bill is making people step up. Lacey is doing a great job. Jonte is coming along.
"It's making everybody get up on their 'A' game. There's no resting like 'I got this position.' Everybody's fighting for it."
Running back Mikel Leshoure, who missed the first two preseason games because of a hamstring injury, participated in his third practice in a row. It appears he will make his Lions debut against the Raiders.
"He's on track to," Schwartz said. "Hopefully, we can keep him on that track."
Leshoure, a second-round pick in 2011, missed all of last season after suffering a torn Achilles' tendon early in training camp.
... The Lions continue to wait for second-year defensive tackle Nick Fairley to live up to his potential on a regular basis rather than just showing flashes of it.
"He struggled early when we started camp," Cunningham said. "He's starting to get into shape. Nick lacked some of that maturity. He had to work overtime.
"Last week in the first half, you could feel the Nick Fairley I know. He's run after practice. He's done a lot of good things to get himself ready to play. Last week I was really impressed.
"He's got all the tools. The biggest problem for him, he's going to have to grow up fast and be consistent. In that position, you can't have a part-time guy. I'm talking about through the game. If the offense line smells blood, they're going to go get him."