With training camp and the preseason now underway for the Detroit Lions, we’re putting some positional battles under the microscope with a series of Toss-ups…
Training Camp Toss-up, No. 6: Does the late camp addition of Rashean Mathis mean anything for Detroit’s secondary? Do you beleive the staff will give Mathis a chance to start opposite Chris Houston instead of Darius Slay, or is he merely a veteran fill-in?
Andrew Tomlinson: Slay was drafted, which to me is the only real reason why he would start over Mathis on the outside. It seems clear Mathis is a backup plan in case Slay does not work throughout the year and to push Bill Bentley for the nickel spot. I honestly believe the Lions are expecting their draft picks to contribute, but with how bad this defense has been during the preseason, major changes would not surprise me.
Chris Burke: Slay’s going to get his playing time, at least as a rotational corner or with someone sliding to the nickel slot so he can play out wide on passing downs. I think Mathis’ arrival says much more about the cornerbacks behind Chris Houston and Slay than it does about those top two guys. It’s not a coincidence that Mathis’ signing came in the midst of a preseason in which Bill Bentley has been flat-out horrible and Jonte Green/Chris Greenwood have struggled to get on the field. The Lions’ 2012 CB draft plan has bombed thus far, so Mathis ought to get every opportunity to crack the lineup.
Max DeMara: Like Chris, I think the addition of Mathis speaks more about the Lions’ lack of quality depth and experience behind the big two. Detroit can have both Mathis and Slay coexist in the backfield, but the heat needs to be turned up significantly on Bill Bentley, who’s looked lost on the field during the preseason. The Lions can’t count on either Greenwood or Green to be completely healthy by the time the season begins and others haven’t distinguished themselves, so with youth all over the place, the team needed meaningful experience, which Mathis brings. There’s no reason he can’t see plenty of playing time. and his veteran know-how should help a young secondary find its way.