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Detroit Lions host star CFL pass rusher, 2 cornerbacks for visit

The Detroit Lions worked out CFL Defensive Player of the Year and a pair of cornerbacks this week.

CFL: Canadian Football League Western Conference Final-BC Lions at Winnipeg Blue Bombers James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Per the NFL visits list from Tuesday, the Detroit Lions worked out three players in Allen Park this week: cornerbacks Thomas Graham and Jace Whittaker, and edge defender Mathieu Betts. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Lions hadn’t signed any of them.

The Lions have shaken up their secondary in the past couple weeks, hoping to spark some improvement in their coverage. Jerry Jacobs was benched in favor of both Kindle Vildor and Khalil Dorsey. In Saturday’s game against the Denver Broncos, Jacobs left with a hamstring injury, and according to coach Dan Campbell, he will not practice on Wednesday. Dorsey was also slow to get up on a play late in the game, but would return later in the game.

Graham was a 2021 sixth-round pick for the Chicago Bears. He would last just a year there, making four game appearances and one start. But in that one career start, he actually tallied three pass breakups. In 2022, he was poached off Chicago’s practice squad by the Cleveland Browns. Over the course of last season, he made seven game appearances for Cleveland, but mostly on special teams duties.

Whittaker went undrafted in 2020, but spent the first three years of his career with the Arizona Cardinals. Over that time, he made 12 game appearances and four starts—all of which came in 2022.

One thing in common with both Graham and Whittaker is their experience on special teams. That could be what the Lions are looking for, particularly if Jacobs misses any time. After Jacobs’ demotion from the starting lineup, Campbell expressed excitement for having the young corner more involved on special teams.

“Now we get Jerry back on teams as well, because Jerry’s a good special teams player now, as a gunner and a jammer,” Campbell said.

Betts is quite possibly the most interesting of visits this week. He just wrapped up a wildly successful season for the CFL’s BC Lions. Last month, Betts was named the top defensive player of the year for the CFL after tallying a league-high 18 sacks in 18 games.

The Lions have been looking for a spark in their pass rush all season. While Aidan Hutchinson has been producing the third-most pressures in the NFL on one side, the Lions have rotated through Charles Harris, Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara, and Derrick Barnes, among others, looking for production. They recently added 36-year-old Bruce Irvin, too, and could be hoping for a late return from James Houston, who is still on IR after fracturing his ankle early in the year.

We’ll see if the Lions decide to add any of these players to the 53-man roster or practice squad as they prepare for a playoff run.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.