With the arrival of Drayton Florence, Detroit Lions fans can finally relax. They can cast aside their worries about another season derailed by an injury-riddled secondary and feel confident that this unit is now deep enough to weather such a storm.
That might seem optimistic—it is—but it isn't that far off either. Florence is arguably the best cornerback that the Lions have on their roster right now and he's only been in town a couple of days.
It was necessary to bring him in. The secondary started to crumble two weeks ago in Oakland. Bill Bentley went down with a shoulder injury and Chris Houston was lost with an ankle injury. Both have been out ever since.
Then the Lions parted ways with veteran Alphonso Smith during final cuts. It wasn't a huge shock, but given the depth issues at cornerback, it left fans to wonder if the Lions weren't setting themselves up for a repeat of 2011.
They had a plan though. The Lions signed solid backup Kevin Barnes from the Washington Redskins, then added the nine-year veteran Florence on Monday.
Jim Schwartz summed up Florence's abilities for MLive.com's Justin Rodgers by saying:
"He’s a veteran player. He’s played inside, he’s played outside. He’s got a lot of experience. Can play press. He’s got some multi-dimensional skills that we like and like I said he’s very experienced. He didn’t make it at Denver, but he had a good career before that and we look forward to having him contribute for us.”
Considering that the other six cornerbacks on the Lions' roster have a combined 14 years of experience, and haven't had time to develop Florence's versatility, his presence will be vital.
It's clear he will be relied upon. The only question is, how much?
The Lions didn't just bring him in to sit on the sidelines. According to Dave Birkett of Freep.com, Florence took first-team reps on Monday. With Bentley and Houston's status unclear, the Lions are smart to give him a crash course in the event he's needed Sunday.
For Lions fans, who know what a inadequate secondary looks like, the decision by the Denver Broncos to cut a player like Florence—and keep young players like Tony Carter and Chris Harris—seems ludicrous. It might also send up some red flags.
According to Birkett, Broncos GM John Elway said Carter and Harris simply played better. Okay, but wouldn't it be smart to keep a veteran around too? Carter and Harris have never started an NFL game and together only tallied seven tackles and zero interceptions last season.
Perhaps Elway doesn't believe in insurance policies. His loss will be the Lions' gain.
Even though Florence is no Darrelle Revis, and with nine years under his belt he probably has lost a step, he instantly upgrades the secondary in Detroit.
It might be an overstatement to call Florence the most important player of the Lions' soon-to-start season. Then again, problems in the secondary threaten the Lions success like nothing else.
Florence is a player that will immediately stabilize that unit. He also improve the Lions secondary dramatically. At the very least he will provide quality depth that Detroit hasn't had in years.
At the most he will take over the starting spot and provide comparable numbers to Chris Houston—41 tackles, three interceptions and one touchdown. He's only missed nine games his entire career and he started every game his last two seasons in Buffalo.
He didn't drop off that much during one offseason.
Bill Bentley and Jonte Green might be the future at the cornerback position for Detroit, but the Lions will be better off if Florence plays more downs in 2012.