For as long as I’ve remembered, cornerback has been a bit of a problem for the Detroit Lions. The 2011 team that made the playoffs was unraveled by their poor defensive back line in the playoffs. Despite having a stars like Darius Slay and Glover Quin in town for much of the 2010s, their secondary struggled due to the team’s inability to find a formidable CB2.
All of that makes it impossible to truly believe that cornerback is the strongest position on the roster heading into 2020, especially with the recent departure of Slay. It truly might be though, at least on paper, and what previously seemed like a black hole on the roster is a bright spot.
It all starts with the two big additions the team made this offseason at corner. First, the Lions found Slay’s replacement the night before the Slay trade became official, bringing in former Atlanta Falcons veteran Desmond Trufant. While Trufant has showed signs of age over the years, he can certainly still play at a high level when healthy.
Then the Lions spent the third overall pick in the draft, the highest selection they have had since their selection of Ndamukong Suh in 2010, on Jeff Okudah, the next in line to the royalty of Ohio State corners who have dominated the NFL in recent years.
Add in additions from the previous season—big-money nickel corner Justin Coleman and highly-regarded rookie Amani Oruwariye — and the team has built quite the corner room for themselves. Detroit added Darryl Roberts in free agency as well, and while his name may not have seen many headlines, adding a player who started 20 games for the New York Jets over the past two seasons is nothing to scoff at.
The depth Detroit has at the position at the moment is near impossible. Players like Mike Ford and Dee Virgin—names fans should be very familiar with—have seemingly become long shots to make the roster overnight. On my rankings of the top 5 corners in the division (a very uncontroversial series you all very much loved) three Lions corners were named.
Could Detroit finally have a top-tier stable of corners, rivaling groups that teams like the Falcons (2016), Jacksonville Jaguars (2017), Los Angeles Rams (2018) and Baltimore Ravens (2019) have had in years past?
On paper they could (and should), but talent on paper not translating onto the field is a problem Lions fans are all too familiar with.
Just look at Coleman, a corner we were all very excited about. He was dominant early on the year but somehow became one of the teams biggest liabilities late in the year. On paper the team would have had one of the nickels in the league, but on the field their secondary struggled as their new star did.
Detroit seems to have filled their secondary with stars once again, but will they finally see the same success on the field that they expect from what they have on paper in 2020?