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2015 Detroit Lions roster review: Cornerbacks suddenly a strength of the defense

A look back at how the Lions' cornerbacks performed in 2015 and a look ahead to 2016.

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As part of our season wrap-up series, we are going to examine how each player on the roster performed in 2015. Next, let's take a look at the Detroit Lions' cornerbacks.

Darius Slay

2015 stats: 16 games (16 starts) | 59 tackles, 13 passes defended, 2 interception
2016 status: Signed through 2016

After a rocky start to the 2015 season, Slay finally broke out in a way most analysts were expecting. After the bye week, Slay turned into a shutdown corner, essentially blanketing half of the field. His lack of impressive statistics left him without Pro Bowl or All Pro honors, but advanced statistics sites like Pro Football Focus fell in love with the cornerback this season.

Rashean Mathis

2015 stats: 7 games (7 starts) | 31 tackles, 4 PDs, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble
2016 status: Signed through 2016

After a surprisingly phenomenal 2014 season, it appears age may have finally taken ahold of Rashean Mathis. The 35-year old veteran was a serviceable No. 2 cornerback through the first half of the season, but a concussion ended his season early. The Lions have him locked up for another year, but face a difficult decision.

Nevin Lawson

2015 stats: 15 games (9 starts) | 47 tackles, 7 PDs
2016 status: Signed through 2017

When Mathis went down, Lawson stepped in. The 2014 fourth-round pick had an up-and-down season. At times, he was picked on (he had the worst PFF coverage grade on the team), but he also occasionally came up with a big pass breakup. He will enter 2016 as one of the top candidates to start opposite Slay.

Quandre Diggs

2015 stats: 16 games (4 starts) | 38 tackles, 6 PDs, 1 FF
2016 status: Signed through 2018

Aside from Slay, Diggs was the Lions' most pleasant surprise in the secondary. The sixth-round rookie was not really expected to contribute in his first year, but as injuries mounted up, Diggs became a valuable nickle cornerback option. In his limited playing time, Diggs showed great potential and excellent coverage skills. He may have already won himself the nickle corner starting position for the future.

Josh Wilson

2015 stats: 8 games (4 starts) | 32 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 PD
2016 status: Unrestricted free agent

Wilson entered the 2015 season as the Lions' most-likely candidate to cover the slot. Detroit signed the nine-year veteran to a one-year deal, hoping to give the Lions some much-needed depth and some leadership in the secondary. Unfortunately, Wilson struggled out of the gate, and eventually succumbed to a season-ending knee injury.

Crezdon Butler

2015 stats: 8 games (0 starts) | 3 tackles
2016 status: Unrestricted free agent

Butler didn't get much time with the Lions defense in 2015, spending most of the season on their practice sqaud. However, he will always be remembered for his huge pass breakup in Lambeau on the Green Bay Packers' potential game-tying two-point conversion attempt.

Alex Carter

2015 stats: 0 games (0 starts)
2016 status: Signed through 2018

Carter was a bit of a surprise pick in the third round of the 2015 draft. Unfortunately, his rookie season never got off the ground. An ankle injury forced him out of training camp and the Lions decided to place him on injured reserve with designation to return. Carter eventually returned to practice, but the Lions quickly decided to shut him down for the rest of the year anyway.

Outlook for 2016

Despite the injuries, the Lions find themselves with a strong cornerback crew for the future. The first order of business this offseason is to extend Darius Slay's contract. Detroit does not want him hitting the free agency market next year. Aside from that, the Lions will have to make a decision regarding their No. 2 cornerback position. Mathis will be 36 by the time the next season starts, and the Lions could save $1.5 million by releasing him. But that move may be risky, as Lawson has not proven to be a great option and the Lions still don't know what they have in Carter.

Previously: Quarterbacks, running backs, fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends,offensive tackles, offensive guards,centers, defensive ends, defensive tackles, linebackers

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