The Detroit Lions cornerback trio of Chris Houston, Darius Slay, and Rashean Mathis struggled last season as a whole, but the Lions CB position should be a lot stronger in 2014. First of all, Houston is a very good starting corner who simply had a down year, and the chances of him having two straight disappointing seasons coming off of a new contract are low. Meanwhile, Slay was a solid draft prospect in 2013, and he showed flashes as a rookie despite being burned, culminating in a strong performance against an admittedly lifeless Green Bay Packers offense on Thanksgiving. Still, his tight coverage and ball skills on the Packers star wideouts were impressive, and he has the tools to be a successful starter in this league.
As for Mathis, the veteran’s future with the team was completely unclear this offseason, as the Lions did not re-sign him and the 33-year-old did not receive a lick of interest on the free agent market. Most of us expected the Lions to keep him around, but that wasn’t a sure thing given his age. Now, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Lions have decided to bring back Mathis, as the 11-year vet and former Jacksonville Jaguars star will sign a one-year deal that is presumably at the league minimum.
Mathis will be a stabilizing influence for the Lions, but I’m guessing he’ll play fewer snaps this year after starting in 13 last year. He had an excellent 16 passes defended with 47 tackles, and those 16 PDs were the highest he’s recorded in a season since breaking up 21 pass plays in 2006 when he was a legitimate shutdown CB in Jacksonville; he still has something left in the tank.
With Mathis back, there is even more of a chance of the Lions taking a WR in this year’s draft, and Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham Jr., and Marqise Lee are four names worth keeping a close eye on.