Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Houston starts at the left corner. He is underrated by the general public but has good quickness and innate stickiness in coverage. Houston is also solid in run support.
His maddening lack of ball awareness with the throw in the air causes great consternation among Lions fans, but the pass defense really fell off when he was out of the lineup for a couple of games in each of the last two seasons.
Darius Slay quickly worked his way into the starting lineup. The second-round pick from Mississippi State needs some technical refinement but has excellent long speed and a good feel for spatial awareness. His length is a real plus.
Bill Bentley will play extensively in the slot as the nickelback. The second year pro is feisty and aggressive, which is both positive and negative. Bentley struggled with holding as a rookie before injuries abbreviated his debut campaign. Head coach Jim Schwartz said this about Bentley in June:
You know, even when we had him last year early in camp, he was a playmaker... He got his hands on balls. He plays with a lot of spirit. He's out there, and he competes all the time. He intercepted a ball (during minicamp). He's really improved his technique.
As insurance, the Lions brought in veteran Rashean Mathis. Once upon a time in Jacksonville, Mathis was a legit Pro Bowl corner, but injuries and age have taken their toll. He looked very sharp in preseason and brings a playmaking flair that is coveted on a team that struggled to create turnovers a year ago. Mathis will line up at both corner and free safety and figures to play a lot.
Jonte Green was thrown to the wolves as a rookie, but the speedy sixth-round pick outplayed the meager expectations. Green showed a quick learning curve, an attribute that will help him as he spends most of this season working on getting stronger.
Louis Delmas is arguably the biggest wild card on the team. When Delmas has been healthy, which has not been often, he has made a very positive impact on the entire defense.
Delmas is rangy, smart and aggressive. He's also a charismatic and energetic leader that raises the play of those around him. His knees are a chronic concern that frequently prevent him from practicing.
Glover Quin signed as a free agent to man the strong safety spot next to Delmas. Quin is a real thumper against the run, a savvy and strong downhill attack dog. He is decent in shorter coverage but loses effectiveness quickly down the field.
Don Carey is sporadically effective, best used in small doses. It shows that he is a former cornerback, as his coverage instincts far outweigh his run defense. He's a limited athlete but understands his role. He and Mathis will split the third safety duties; Carey is more of an injury insurance policy than a regular player.
John Wendling will only see the field on special teams, and for good reason. His range and inability to change direction make him a major liability when he plays in the base defense.
Grade: C+, but heading in an upward trajectory