Jose Juarez/Associated Press
Cornerback is the most crowded position on the roster. It's also the place with the most uncertainty.
Veterans Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis, the regular starters a year ago, both return. However, Houston is battling a toe injury that might need surgery, as reported by Pro Football Talk.
Mathis will be 34 when the season starts, and he returns to Detroit only after not finding any offers as a free agent after the season. PFF graded him out as the best corner on the roster a year ago, but the team values him as much for his veteran-mentor role as it does his on-field contributions.
That's because a cadre of youngsters complete the depth chart.
Last year's second-round pick, Darius Slay (pictured) is expected to secure a starting role and not give it up, as he did a year ago. He finished 2013 strongly and is a player who could blossom in his second season.
A trio of 2012 draftees, Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green, hold down spot for now. Bentley has started in the slot, when healthy, the last two years. He faces a real challenge from rookie Nevin Lawson, who is also a natural slot corner.
If the fourth-round pick from Utah State can clean up his hands—an issue that also plagues Bentley—he could quickly step in and take over the nickel role.
Greenwood is the biggest wild card. He's an athletic project who struggled with an abdominal injury and showed very little until the final game of the 2013 season. In that game against Minnesota, the Albion College alumnus showed why the Lions traded up to draft him in the fifth round. His length, speed and power drip with potential.
Recently signed Aaron Hester and Cassius Vaughn also factor in the mix. Vaughn started for the AFC South champion Colts a year ago, though he did not exactly impress the PFF game-charters.
Hester is another length/speed prospect who spent his rookie season on Denver's practice squad.
The final spots will be determined by special teams value more than ability to contribute as part of the defense. You will likely see several of these guys on other rosters or practice squads come September.