Next up in our ongoing Detroit Lions roster preview series, we have second-year cornerback Chase Lucas. Originally a seventh-round draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft out of Arizona State, Lucas now finds himself in the middle of what is now a crowded cornerbacks room.
Let’s take a closer look at how Lucas, and what needs to happen for him to potentially carve out a meaningful role on the Lions’ defense in 2023.
Expectations heading into 2022
As in most cases, there were not many expectations attached to Lucas as he entered 2022 training camp. Because of the COVID-19 shortened season in 2020, Lucas had just finished his sixth(!) season at Arizona State prior to being drafted by the Lions. And because of his longer-than-usual time spent in the collegiate ranks, Lucas entered the NFL as a 25-year-old rookie.
On the flip side of being an older rookie entering the league is the fact that Lucas had a lot of experience to draw from. As a Sun Devil, he played under coach Herm Edwards, and assistant coaches like Marvin Lewis brought a professional touch to Arizona State’s program. And at 5-foot-11, 184 pounds, Lucas is a slot defender that will have to rely on being a heady player if he is going to make his mark in the league.
Actual role in 2022
6 games: 6 defensive snaps, 75 special teams snaps
PFF defensive grade: 35.5
PFF tackling grade: 80.6
PFF run defense grade: 60.0
PFF coverage grade: 31.8
Despite the Lions secondary being one of the thinner areas of the roster to begin 2022, Lucas found himself in a reserve role to begin the season. With that said, Lions coaches seemed to be high on Lucas’ development throughout training camp, and he managed to carve out a role on special teams.
Around the midseason mark, Lucas suffered an ankle injury that would sideline him for Weeks 8-10. From there, he would go on to log special teams snaps in Weeks 12 and 13, before eventually being shut down for the season due to a hamstring injury that popped up before the Lions’ second matchup with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14 of the 2022 season.
Outlook for 2023
A year of NFL experience under his belt should aid in his development, but because of the aforementioned changes to the Lions’ secondary, Lucas’ road to meaningful defensive snaps looks really steep—at least on paper.
On top of additions on the outside like cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley, the Lions added big-time free agent C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and drafted University of Alabama defensive back Brian Branch. And because of these additions, defensive backs like Will Harris and Jerry Jacobs could be among those vying for snaps as the slot defender in defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s defense.
Is there a world in which Lucas can beat out everyone and nail down a starting position? Sure, I suppose it is possible. But with all the new faces roaming the Lions’ new-look secondary, it certainly isn’t going to be easy for the former Sun Devil. And because of his lack of size and long-speed, playing the nickel is seemingly the only road to playing on defense for a player with Lucas’ skillset.
That said, the Lions are already trying to give Lucas a shot at any possible position they can put him. He took several snaps at outside cornerback during OTAs and training camp. When he wasn’t on the field due to injury, he was still actively involved in communication and mental reps.
Ultimately, Lucas’ roster spot will boil down to what he can bring to the table as a core special teamer and, to a lesser extent, what he offers as depth in Detroit’s secondary.