Maybe Rod Marinelli should have been a politician.
Judging by the way he answered one particular question during Thursday's media briefing, you would have almost expected the next question to be, "How many homes do you own?"
The Lions' head coach played it safe -- and was effective in doing so -- by answering whether or not cornerback Leigh Bodden is starting material in Detroit's defense. Bodden, acquired in a trade with Cleveland for defensive stalwart Shaun Rogers earlier in the off-season, is still listed behind Travis Fisher as one of the team's starting cornerbacks.
Considering the mammoth departure of Rogers, and the expectations of the high-octane Bodden (considered a "shutdown" cornerback), the depth chart has left many scratching their heads -- and wondering if Bodden was indeed worth the bait.
"I look at it that we have three starting corners," responded Marinelli. "That's the way I viewed it. Now, in certain packages in base defense when only two corners trot out there, obviously Brian (Kelly) and Travis Fisher are our starters, but I've considered Leigh a starter since we've gotten him." But while Bodden isn't technically a starter, the question is why not? Fisher doesn't have nearly the reputation of Bodden, but does have more experience in the Tampa Two defense.
Bodden has registered a strong training camp, but some in the media and in team circles don't know how well he's adapting to the style of defense. Bodden is more in the Dre' Bly cover-corner mold, while the Tampa Two requires its corners to sit in a zone, rely on the safeties and middle linebacker, and wait for their opportunities. Hence why Bly is in Denver.
Marinelli admitted that Bodden is still learning the system, but believes the 6-1, 193 lb defensive back has a grasp of what's expected from him.
"We're excited about Leigh Bodden," said Marinelli, who mentioned a day earlier that there's just a few details in the defense that Bodden needs to iron out. "I think we got a heck of a football player with him, and he's come in, he's fit right in. I think of all the DBs that we signed, Leigh was the one guy that, at least early on, didn't have any familiarity in the system, in our package. But gosh dang, I think it was awesome that he was here all offseason.
"He's gelling with the group, and he's fit right in, and he's making plays in practice. We got a really, really quality football player in Leigh Bodden."
Fisher served as the team's nickel back a year ago, essentially an extra cornerback should the Lions use that particular defensive package. And while the depth chart may read differently, it likely won't be long before Bodden is one of only "two" starters.
The Lions defense is rife with new faces. Besides Bodden, the Lions welcomed veteran Brian Kelly from Tampa, along with safeties Dwight Smith and Kalvin Pearson. Even Daniel Bullocks, who missed most of last year with an injury, is relatively new to the defense orchestrated by coordinator Joe Barry. While it took time for the unit to initially gel, Marinelli has been pleased with the progress.
Considering the Lions front seven is the biggest question mark on the team, a maligned defense from a year ago (perhaps the NFL's worst) is counting on its defensive backs.
"I'm excited. I get a smile on my face when I think about it," said Marinelli. "Obviously we revamped that whole group, and we revamped it with good football players, A, and also B, players that for the most part, like I said besides Leigh, had great familiarity in this package and in this system. Then you look at guys that are still here from last year, now they're going into they're second year. Gerald Alexander's going into his second year. Daniel Bullocks, even though he was banged up last year, he's going into the second year of the system and adding (Secondary Coach) Jimmy Lake.
"When you look at everything - the players that we've added, the dynamics of the room - it's been great."