On Sunday afternoon following the Detroit Lions’ 24-14 loss to the Chicago Bears, head coach Dan Campbell showed some rare frustration with the team’s secondary. While he’s understood some of the team’s early struggles considering the injuries, the new defense, and just some of the early-season rust, the one thing he doesn’t seem to tolerate is repeated mistakes.
“As long as you’re not making the same mistakes and not playing scared, but the same mistakes are showing up now a little bit,” Campbell said.
But it was his next sentence that raised my eyebrows.
“We’ve got to find a way or we’ve got to find somebody else that can do them,” Campbell continues. “And whether that’s in the building, which we’ve got a couple other guys, or — you know, you go from there.”
The message seems clear there. We need help and the guys who we have just aren’t currently cutting it. Though he went on to say this wasn’t a lack of effort thing, he also said clearly “they’re hurting us a little bit right now.”
And that’s understandable. The Lions are starting an undrafted rookie at nickel cornerback. They’re down to their fourth-string outside cornerback in converted safety Bobby Price, who went undrafted last year. To expect these guys to come and play flawless football would be unrealistic.
But Campbell reiterated on Monday that he’s not going to continue to let some of these young players hurt the team on game day.
“Some of these guys it may be time to make a shift, but that doesn’t mean that we dislike anybody,” Campbell said via Zoom. “Maybe they’re not just quite ready and you move to somebody else and in the meantime when they do come in, you’re giving them just a couple of things that they can handle and know their skill set and what they’re able to do, you’re kind of catering to them a little bit, if you will. That way, they’re able to develop, but you’re not putting too much on them.”
As to who exactly he’s talking about, it’s hard to know. Price really struggled on Sunday, as rookie quarterback Justin Fields picked on him for 149 of his 209 passing yards. But Campbell actually spoke quite highly of the second-year player.
“We still like Bobby Price, man. The kid’s talented, he works his rear off. We just moved him from safety to corner right before we even started the season,” Campbell said.
He also seemed encouraged by the play of undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs, who stepped in late for Price following an injury.
“I thought Jerry Jacobs did some good things,” Campbell said.
And while the Lions clearly want to shake up some personnel on the back end, Campbell made sure to reiterate that he still wants to develop some of the young talent.
“If we’ve got to tailor some back for these guys, we’ve got to pull some reps back on some of these guys and just really try to condense the box for them a little bit, we’ll do that. So, they will still continue to get a little bit better, but we’re not putting so much on them that they’re not ready for.
The problem is, even if Campbell is considering scaling back the playing time of some of these young players who exactly is he going to turn to? Does Daryl Worley get more playing time at safety (or at corner)? Will safety Dean Marlowe continue to eat away at the snaps of both Tracy Walker and Will Harris? Who can the Lions even turn to at cornerback right now? Will Campbell do what he hinted at Sunday night and find some answers outside of the Lions’ current roster?
“We’re looking at every avenue.”