When the Lions drafted cornerback Jonte Green in the sixth round in the 2012 NFL draft, there was doubt he would make the final 53-man roster. The NFL very well could stand for “Not For Long” as things change quickly.
Projected starting cornerback Aaron Berry was released from the team after reports of two separate off-field incidents, cornerback Drayton Florence was placed on Injured Reserve (but is designated for a possible return) and Jacob Lacey and Bill Bentley have battled injuries throughout the year.
All of the above unexpected twists and turns have helped Green find his way onto the field more often than expected, including 18 snaps against last week’s opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I thought he played very well. I don’t think he struggled at all,” said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz of Green’s most recent performance. “I think Jonte, he’s a rookie, but I wouldn’t say he’s struggled. I think he’s done a pretty good job for a rookie. He stepped into this game and did a very good job. Like I said, we played a lot of the fourth quarter and our overtime series with Jonte and then Amari Spievey stepping into the nickel spot and Erik Coleman moving into the safety spot. So it wasn’t just one guy going down and one guy replacing him. It was, you know— (the Eagles) were going to some four-wide receiver packages.
"They knew we were injured. They were in pursuit to try and take advantage of it. The touchdown they scored as a four wide receiver package. It was going to be difficult to hold up in those matchups, but I thought Gunther (Cunningham) did a good job play-calling. I thought our defense did a good job executing.”
Green showed some quick growth from his last significant appearance on defense.
In Week One, against the St. Louis Rams, injuries forced Green onto the field and the Rams took advantage. Green was only on the field for eight plays but was thrown at twice. He allowed both passes to be completed for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Against the Eagles, Green was only thrown at once and the pass fell incomplete.
“I just got to go out there and compete on every play,” said Green. “Don’t let the guy catch the ball. I know sometimes I’m probably going to be targeted because I’m a rookie but I can’t change the way I play but I just got to go out there and make plays.”
With the status of Bentley (shoulder) and Lacey (concussion) still in the air, and even with the re-signing of dispatched cornerback Alphonso Smith, Green may play a significant role for the Lions this week. As Green prepares, he is continuing to leverage the experience and expertise of his veteran teammates, namely Chris Houston and Florence.
“They’ve been helping me, helping me all this week, building confidence in me and helping me on the field and off the field,” said Green. “Those guys have been helping me out a lot.”
Also, there may be an additional failsafe for Green should he play and find the opposition targeting him – Safety Louis Delmas.
Delmas is one of the league’s best when it comes to communicating and adjusting. Green is aware of the presence of the talented safety and knows to lean on him – and the other safeties - for help.
“I can communicate with those guys in the huddle and we can both alert each other,” said Green. “I think if I do that, hopefully if I do that, it’ll come out good.”
If Lacey and Bentley are able to play against the Chicago Bears, Green may find himself fulfilling a special team’s role. However, if both can’t go, and depending on how Detroit plans to use Smith, it’s also possible Green will start. starts. If that's the case, he will surely be tested by Jay Cutler and Chicago's aggressive passing attack, providing a national stage to demonstrate home much he’s grown.