CB competition heats up in third exhibition
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
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
"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."