Upon Further Review: How the Lions DBs fared

August 11th, 2013

Bill Bentley did not impress vs. the Jets despite glowing camp reports.

Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor

Since most of the questions and comments I got on Twitter and in my email (jeff.risdon@gmail.com) concerned the secondary, I decided to do a more in depth breakdown of the corners and safeties and how they performed vs. the Jets. The players are listed here in order of snap counts, which were conveniently compiled by Justin Rogers at MLive.com.

One formational note: The Lions did a lot of playing the short side corner in press formation and the field side corner 8-10 yards off the line. It wasn’t every time but it was more often than not. It was a calculated gamble as Sanchez and Smith combined to throw just one pass to the wide side.

Domonique Johnson–
Saw his first action on the Jets’ 3rd drive. He did a nice job sticking with his man on a couple of shallow inside routes. Missed an arm tackle at the sideline. One of the things I noted was that he sits much deeper in his crouch when lining up off the line but is more upright when playing press or tighter to the line. His lateral agility was exploited a couple of times by quicker outside receivers crossing his face and breaking inside. Johnson held on for dear life after dropping to the ground too quickly in trying to tackle Bilal Powell on a quick flare. He got rightfully called for a pass interference penalty as Braylon Edwards made a strong push inside that left Johnson clinging to his jersey.

Chris Hope–
The first time you see Hope is when the veteran gets to the hole a step late and lunges wildly at Bilal Powell, who niftily dodged him for a nice gain. He was late to the party on the next play, an inside run. On another play it was hard to see his initial angle but Hope flew to the outside as soon as Geno Smith began his throwing process and would have been in on a play had Willie Young not batted down the pass. I noted that he stepped in the bucket to break forward on a couple of occasions, one of which left a crossing receiver wide open on a play negated by one of the Jets’ many penalties. If he’s not demonstrably better in the next couple of preseason games I cannot imagine him lasting past the cuts to 75.

Darius Slay–
On the Ansah INT, Slay made a great transition in turning over the outside flat to the LB and running deep with Hill streaking down the field on a clear-out for the screen. He lost leverage and got run backwards by Clyde Gates on a run that was cleaned up quickly inside. On the very next play he dodged Gates’ high block attempt and crashed inside in proper contain position on another excellent job by Ansah and Tulloch. Flipped his hips incredibly quickly on a downfield zone look where he was over the top. Missed a jam on a tight bunch formation and was chasing Gates down the field on a deep clearout, never caught up with Gates. Slay showed good timing on a blitz. I liked that Slay made the right read and reaction in zone coverage every time I saw him, very good positional awareness. One big downer was a stupid, completely unnecessary block in the back on a punt return that drew a personal foul penalty.

Don Carey–
He closed quickly on Tommy Bohannon on a safety valve play but took a poor angle and allowed the lumbering FB to turn it upfield for a couple extra yards. Carey was slow to react to the play on a 3rd & 10, sticking too far outside and deep when the only potential receiving threat in the area broke across and inside. Carey made a nice diving shoulder tackle on Winslow at the sideline that drew a respectful hand slap from K2. He also made a solid tackle on a Powell run after ducking under a block. Overran a tackle on a broken coverage play. Carey made an exceptional TFL as he timed the blitz well and quickly adjusted to the handoff, burying Powell for a loss with a little help from Bentley. He stayed in control despite bounding in at full speed, an underrated attribute for safeties.

Amari Spievey–
One of the things I loathe from safeties is weak effort at tackling, but the first note I made on Spievey was him dropping to his knees two steps in front of the receiver and lunging out at his feet. Ben Obomanu bounced off him and picked up a couple of extra yards. His coverage instincts were actually pretty strong on the play but that kind of tackling gets players cut. Later he quickly diagnosed a quick out to the tight and delivered a strong shot on a 3rd down stop.

DeQuan Menzie–
Lined up as the strong safety, Menzie shot the B gap and helped Willie Young (who was spectacular all night) on a TFL. He was late to react to Obomanu in his zone. Menzie lost his footing on a screen and allowed a big run after the catch. He later had strong man coverage on Spadola as the receiver crossed the formation and the DB got his hand in the way of the throw. While playing LCB late he offered a weak jam and got beaten over the top but the throw went elsewhere.

Bill Bentley–
No two ways about it: Bill Bentley had a terrible game. On the first third down he was too deep in his zone set and allowed Ryan Spadola an easy catch in space. Bentley compounded the error by making a wild dive at his feet that the not-so-fleet Spadola easy avoided to pick up a first down. He gave Gates too much room over the middle and was right on top of Levy in zone coverage on a later completion. The next time we saw Bentley he overstepped outside on a nice move by Gates and went to the turf, allowing a big gain in the seam. To Bentley’s credit he sprinted back into the play and contributed to the tackle. He had his best moment on a blitz where he aided Carey on a tackle for loss. He made a solid jam while playing outside and broke in quickly, recognizing his role in the zone. On the play where Geno Smith hurt himself, Bentley was lined up on the field side and stuck like glue to his man down the field. I thought Bentley played much better outside, but some of that is a function that the Jets QBs were timid about challenging outside and/or down the field.

Tyrell Johnson–
The first impression is not a good one; he was slow to react to a throw and compounded the error by committing a personal foul as he dove in and delivered a blow to the head. On the Zach Rogers touchdown he failed to keep crossing with the receiver, though he was in position to snuff out a run if McElroy had kept it. He missed a tackle on a run after catch but slowed up the receiver enough that he went down shortly thereafter. He looked better crashing inside a block and making an open field tackle on Spann. One subtlety I noted on Johnson is that when he runs at full speed his head is down. That is not a good thing.

Brandon King–
On his very first play he crushed Braylon Edwards for a nice, low open field tackle. On the very next play he stuck right on the hip of Spadola to make it a very tough throwing angle. King did not locate the ball, however. On the next drive he got absolutely torched on a good play action pump fake by McElroy and was spared only by Rogers dropping the ball, though there was also an offensive hold on the play. That play was scarily reminiscent of Drayton Florence a year ago.

Chris Houston–
On the Jets first play he did exactly what he was supposed to, initially pressing the wideout and then bailing into zone, quickly breaking on the shallow dump that was dropped. Houston later got spun around on a decent inside release but stuck with him to make the tackle. His safety help (Carey) was inside so it was the proper positioning, but you never like to see a corner with his back to the QB so quickly into a play. He got turned around again later while in inside technique, which is a cardinal sin for a corner. He and Quin showed good chemistry in zone transition. One tidbit: the Jets consciously chose to throw right at him instead of Slay coming out of the gate.

Glover Quin–
The first time he was anywhere close to a play was the memorable near-INT where he flew to the ball as Kellen Winslow tried in vain to corral an off-target lob from Sanchez; has Winslow not made a fantastic play Quin had an easy touchdown. Had little else to do as every run was cleaned up by the big guys up front.

Ross Weaver–
Made a quick recognition on a draw play and held outside contain as the tackle was made. He is partially on the hook for the Rogers TD as he lost track of the receiver and never found him again, got caught staring at the QB. I did not notice him on the field after that, though apparently he played in judging by his snap count.

Trevor Coston–
Was in good position to make a play but wasn’t watching for the ball. He would have had a shot at the INT had he not been focused on crushing the receiver. On the next series he quickly closed on a crossing route and broke up the play without getting flagged, which was an accomplishment as he started his hit very upright.

Martavius Neloms–
Neloms looked a little hesitant in attacking a run after catch. He got isolated a the wide side corner but nicely stuck with the receiver on a slant and made a diving play on the ball to force a punt from man press coverage. He’s gained notice for his cover skills and Neloms sure flashed them there.

John Wendling–
Befitting a reserve safety who is around almost exclusively for special teams, Wendling did not play a down on defense. It is not a good sign for Wendling that Tyrell Johnson played ahead of him in the defensive pecking order and also got more special teams action (23 plays to 20).

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4 Responses to “Upon Further Review: How the Lions DBs fared”

  1. Fantastic read and exactly the kind of deep analysis I had hoped for.

    Slay draws the Browns next, but it will be the third preseason week he will get his real test, facing a QB who makes a living reading and abusing individual player weaknesses. Tim Tebow. Wait, no, it’s the OTHER Patriots QB.

  2. Dave Brown says:

    I agree with Kent. Good stuff. One thing, I think Carey is better than you let on here, he had a solid game. Quin also played better than you made mention of. He was never challenged.

  3. Derek says:

    Fantastic insight into the secondary. The game left me with several questions specific to the secondary, and you were the first one to touch on all the points I found curious. DeQuan Menzie is a particularly interesting prospect in my view, but I don’t see him sticking in the league unless he transitions to safety from corner. I noticed you mentioned he got a few snaps in at safety. Hope he can stick as a project who might be able to step in for Delmas next season when the team will be forced to move in another direction.

    Beyond that, I found it interesting that the commentators kept waiting for Jets QBs to target Slay, yet it never seemed to happen. On the other hand you noted Houston was targeted. I wonder whether that was a function of a perceived talent gap between the two? Also, the team alleges more speed and talent in the secondary than ever before, but performance remained consistent with last season. That begs the question, is scheme or talent the issue with the Lions secondary?

    • adminLions says:

      I think the targeting by the Jets was almost exclusively a function of their offense and independent of the Lions personnel deployment. Houston happened to be on the guy who was the primary target for the play call and Slay wasn’t. It is probably that simple.

      Menzie didn’t stick in KC because they saw him as a poor man’s Amari Spievey. I see that too. The Lions will be a better team if neither of them are on the final 53.

      Especially in the 2nd half, a lot of the coverage was pure zone and the LBs were absolutely awful at it. That left the DBs more exposed and made them look worse, Chris Hope in particular. All the speed and length in the world can only do so much when all three LBs are lost in space…and they were on several occasions.

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