Cornerback. Oh, crap.
The Detroit Lions allowed 70% completions in 2007.
And 68% completions in 2008 -- giving up a stunning 7.9 net yards per pass play.
Yes -- the run defense was horrific. But so was the pass defense.
And we brought in some experienced starters, plus a backup.
But -- sheesh -- let's look at these guys.
In October 2006, Philip Buchanon was dumped by Houston. Previously, he'd been dumped by Oakland. Highly regarded when drafted in the Mid-First in 2002, Buchanon never lived up to his billing as a cover-corner. He was, alas, merely a good return guy -- for the first couple years of his career.
In October, 2006, Buchanon joined Tampa and shortly thereafter took Brian Kelly's starting spot. In the T-2. A zone defense.
In 2007, he retained his starting role, and Kelly was the nickel for the most part.
In 2008, the Lions get Kelly -- only to find out why he had previously lost his starting job in Tampa.
Now, in 2009, the Lions count on Buchanon -- who turns 29 in a couple months.
Buchanon failed the last two times he was relied on for man-coverage at cornerback.
The other guy, Anthony Henry, turns 33 later this year. He was a mid-round pick of Cleveland back in 2001. And even though he started just two games, he had a startling 10 picks as a rookie. Wow -- nice start to a career.
Henry stuck around Cleveland for 4 years, then moved onto Dallas -- where he's been for four years as well. In Dallas, the talk was that he'd lost a step or two and that if they retained him, they should consider moving him to free safety.
At 6'1 205 pounds or so -- he was about the right size for the position.
Well, Dallas decided they could part with Henry -- to get ... Jon Kitna. Ugh. The Detroit staff has, on occasion, mentioned that they may try to move Henry to safety -- depending on how the other CBs are looking and how the other safeties are looking.
The Lions already have a bunch of safeties with starting experience even after trading away Gerald Alexander.
Who else is there at cornerback?
Keith Smith. This is now his sixth season, folks. He has four total picks. Last year he had no starts and missed six games due to injury. Some feel like the guy was just about to become a real corner in 2006, when the team switched to a T-2 zone system -- a scheme that just didn't seem a good fit.
But can Keith Smith -- in year six -- finally rise up? Remember, he's actually six months OLDER than Buchanon (Smith turns 30 in March next year). I just have a hard time believing Keith is suddenly going to put it together.
Eric King is another corner. The dime-back for Tennessee the past three years has always been been a backup -- seems likely that "backup" is his destiny.
Ramzee Robinson: The last guy drafted a couple years ago. Nice story, but really not a good corner.
Now, maybe we could hide (somewhat) the weakness at cornerback if we get lots and lots of pressure on opposing QBs. Sure, that'd help. But one thing we have always noticed is that if your corners are weak in coverage, the pressure has a hard time even occurring -- as QBs can throw at them at will.
For me, our cornerback situation is a big, big problem. That's one reason I preferred Alphonso Smith over Louis Delmas in the draft. I viewed them as about equal as prospects, but the cornerback position just looks so bad to me right now.