The Detroit Lions just finished up their three day voluntary mini-camp yesterday. The biggest story seemed to be the absence of Ndamukong Suh at the camp, but a much more important one emerged as the week wrapped up.
Chris Houston was unable to participate due to the toe injury he suffered last year. It hasn’t healed well enough for him to perform yet and coach Jim Caldwell said he couldn’t be certain that it would. Houston started last season with a new five year, $25 million contract that had him slated to be the Lions top cornerback for years to come. On field injuries to the toe and his hamstring and off field distractions (his father was accused in a drug trafficking case) led to a late season benching of Houston. Houston says if the injury heals he can return to his 2012 form, but at this point there are no signs of that happening.
With Houston sidelined, the Lions did have a very noticeable visitor; draft prospect Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is widely considered the top cornerback in the draft and many mock drafts have had him landing in Detroit with the 10th overall pick. While the Lions are returning their whole group of cornerbacks from last season, they obviously could use an upgrade at their biggest position of weakness from 2013. Darius Slay, Chris Greenwood, Bill Bentley and Jonte Green are all very young and should improve and the team did bring back veteran and former all-pro Rashean Mathis to provide leadership and stability. Unless the Lions trade up and go for wide receiver Sammy Watkins, it’s very likely that the Lions will hope to draft Gilbert or possibly Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
There is no way before the draft the Lions and Caldwell will know if Houston will be healthy come draft time and so it leaves general manager Martin Mayhew in a tough spot in regards to improving his defensive secondary. Even with Houston healthy though, the Lions could still use an upgrade at the position and having Gilbert in town during the mini-camp may have tipped Mayhew’s draft hand a bit.