Fourth-round rookie stepping in for Detroit's injured Bill Bentley
The Detroit Lions probably didn’t plan on playing fourth-round rookie cornerback Nevin Lawson for 82% of their defensive snaps last week. That’s exactly what happened, though, thanks to a torn ACL that Bill Bentley suffered only three plays into the game. Bentley was placed on season-ending IR earlier this week.
Detroit’s starting slot corner for all of last season, Bentley put up below average numbers in what was a fairly average secondary. He finished with a coverage grade of -4.2, and his 7.9 Coverage Snaps per Reception was ranked 33rd out of the 51 cornerbacks that logged at least 100 snaps in the slot.
With Bentley out, Lawson has been given the nickel job. He doesn’t need to do anything spectacular to replace Bentley’s production, but as a rookie he’ll likely see himself get picked on. In Week 1 against the Giants, Lawson allowed three catches on four targets into his coverage for 43 yards and earned a -0.7 coverage grade. Not a performances that will scare teams away from throwing at him.
This week Lawson figures to match up frequently with Panthers’ veteran slot receiver Jerricho Cotchery. Stats aside, Cotchery is four inches taller and 10 pounds heavier than Lawson, a size mismatch from the outset. If the Panthers want even more of a favorable pairing, look for them to try to get 6-foot-5 rookie Kelvin Benjamin in the slot as they did for more than a quarter of their passing plays last week. If Lawson struggles, the Lions might start looking at a reshuffle that could include a veteran free agent like Champ Bailey, whom they recently worked out.