The Lions will have a totally revamped secondary entering Sundayâ€™s regular-season opener versus Rams.
By DAVE DYEFS Detroit
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- You wanted a new secondary. You got it.
The consensus opinion was that the
Detroit Lions had to do something after getting torched for a combined 90 points and 928 passing yards during their final two games last season.
The changes might not be exactly what many had in mind, but it's a totally revamped unit entering Sunday's regular-season opener against St. Louis.
Complicated by injuries to safety Louis Delmas (knee) and cornerback Chris Houston (ankle), the Lions will likely start a back line that few would have imagined just weeks ago.
The turnover has been extreme:
• Starting cornerback Eric Wright, signed by Tampa Bay as a free agent, is gone.
• So is Aaron Berry, Wright's projected replacement. Berry was released shortly before training camp, after being arrested twice in a month.
• Alphonso Smith, who had eight interceptions the last two years, is no longer around either. He was cut last week because he makes too many mental mistakes.
As a result, the only returning cornerback of the six on the roster is Houston, and he hasn't practiced with the team since getting injured in the third preseason game.
It's a different look at safety, too, partly because Delmas has been out since undergoing knee surgery a month ago.
Amari Spievey also was slowed at times during camp because of post-concussion issues, leaving John Wendling and Erik Coleman as the starting safeties until further notice.
Wendling has started two games in his five years in the NFL. Coleman, entering his ninth year, has one start over the last two seasons.
Some naysayers are most concerned about the safety position. Others fret more over the cornerbacks.
Take your pick. Together, they are capable of ruining this team's chances of making the playoffs for the second straight year.
"It is what it is," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We'll get through and get those guys (Delmas and Houston) back on the field as soon as we can. When we do, they'll be ready. If they're not, we have other guys that get paid to play also. We'll be fine."
What this massive turnover has done is create opportunities for others, including cornerback Bill Bentley, a third-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Bentley missed the final preseason game because of a shoulder injury, but he's expected to start Sunday at the right corner.
From all indications, Bentley has the potential to be a solid pro in time.
"Whether he makes a play or gives up a play, he's going to stop and ask a question," receiver Nate Burleson said. "He's just constantly trying to learn."
Houston added: "He doesn't make the same mistake over and over."
Bentley, however, walks a fine line with his aggressive style. He might jump a route and make a big play, or he could get burned badly in the same situation.
The Lions don't want to take away Bentley's aggressive nature -- that's what makes him the player he is -- but they need him to use it wisely.
He's a rookie. He's going to make mistakes, but he seems to have the ability to bounce back from them quickly.
Ideally, the Lions would have reliable veterans in place, giving Bentley time to develop. He probably needs that time, but he's not going to get it under the circumstances.
This team needs him to mature fast, produce now.
"The coaches are putting him in the position where he's right in the fire," Burleson said. "He has to handle the heat right now."
For the most part, Bentley seems to have the demeanor to handle that heat.
"I want to be tested," he said. "I know I'm getting beat sometimes, but I'm coming back the next play to compete and make a play.
"I'm not saying I'll be a complete corner (right away). It's very serious out there on that island in the National Football League. But as the years progress, know I'm definitely trying to be the No. 1 corner, and I'm trying to be the person that follows the best receiver wherever he goes. I'm doing what I love. It's my dream job."
Until Houston returns, the starting left cornerback could be Jacob Lacey, a free-agent addition from Indianapolis, or Drayton Florence, a 10th-year veteran who was signed less than a week ago after being released by Denver.
The Lions' other cornerbacks are Kevin Barnes, acquired from Washington last week in a trade, and sixth-round draft pick Jonte Green.
All of these scenarios are far from ideal. They're certainly not the typical makeup of a Super Bowl contender.
Still, it can't be any worse than it was at the end of last season. Right?