(This is the fourth in a series examining the Detroit Lions’ highly-scrutinized secondary.)
Safety Amari Spievey already knew his lack of consistency was a concern to the Lions’ coaching staff.
Now he knows it more than ever since the club acquired veteran free agent Sean Jones.
Spievey started 24 games in his first two seasons, including 15 last year, but that first-team job is clearly on the line now.
Jones, 30, has started 85 games over his seven-year career, 32 of those coming the last two years at strong safety with Tampa Bay. He signed a one-year deal last week with Detroit.
It’s a wake-up call — and a challenge — for Spievey.
“I feel I played pretty bad last year,” Spievey said during the Lions’ minicamp last month. “Just being inconsistent, making a good play then giving up another play. This year, I just want to be consistent.
“Gunter (Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham) always tells me how much he believes in me, how confident he is in me. He says, ‘Amari, you’ve just got to get it.’
“I am going to get it. We’re tired of talking about it. I just want to go out and do it.”
Spievey, 24, was drafted as a cornerback when we came out of Iowa in the third round in 2010. He was converted to safety in his rookie year by the Lions and made nine starts that season.
Spievey admitted he was “terrified” when he first found out he was changing positions. He’s still learning on the job.
“At safety, there’s a lot to know,” he said. “You’ve got to see everything, you’ve got to know everything. You’ve got to make checks. You’re not a corner just waiting for the calls. You’re actually giving the calls.
“That’s what I was scared of, but I’ve come to learn that it can be done. I’m feeling pretty good this year.”
Louis Delmas, the Lions’ other starting safety, has only one more year of NFL experience than Spievey, but Delmas has helped his teammate with the transition.
Delmas started his college career at cornerback before moving to safety during his sophomore year at Western Michigan.
“Without him, I don’t know where I would be right now,” Spievey said.
You can question Spievey’s consistency, but not his toughness.
He played the final three quarters of the Lions’ playoff loss to New Orleans after suffering a concussion during a collision with Saints running back Darren Sproles.
Spievey continued to experience post-concussion symptoms during the offseason, including severe headaches for a while, before returning to the field during the club’s minicamp.
That head injury is likely at least part of the reason the Lions opted to add Jones at this time.
Spievey will enter training camp later this month for what’s likely to be one of the more hotly contested position battles. Erik Coleman, an eight-year pro, also could figure into the mix.
Spievey can take nothing for granted.
“It’s his third year in the system,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “His position coach hasn’t changed, his coordinator hasn’t changed. We need to see more consistency out of him.
“When he’s played well, he’s played very well for us.”
However, when he’s played poorly, he’s played very poorly, too.
The competition with Jones just might bring out the best in Spievey. At least that’s the plan.