When discussing the starting defense for the Detroit Lions, the conversation generally starts with praise for the dominant defensive line then progresses to optimism for the revamped linebacker corps and finishes with concern regarding the secondary.
All those who are scared of the secondary and concerned for the cornerbacks need to have a conversation with Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham.
Cunningham talked to the media after Thursday morning’s practice and spoke with confidence when assessing his unit – particularly cornerback Eric Wright.
The addition of Wright, who will start opposite of Chris Houston, gives Cunningham two of his top rated cornerbacks from the 2007 NFL draft.
“To get Eric Wright,” said Cunningham. “(He) was one of the highest rated corners – for me – when he came out along with (Leon) Hall, (Darrelle) Revis and obviously Chris Houston was on that list.”
Eric Wright struggled in Cleveland last year, but Gunther Cunningham's look at the tape gave him reason to think otherwise (stock photo)
To get Wright means that Cunningham has the freedom to be aggressive with his defensive play calling.
“They better keep an eye on those linebackers now,” said Cunningham. “Because we got some guys who can play man-to-man on the back end… I want to line up my guys to cover a guy and then bring about eight of ‘em and see if they can block us.”
Wright was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, 53rd overall, in 2007. He was considered to have first-round potential but there were some concerns with off-the-field issues, causing him to slip into the second round.
Wright proved to be a valuable selection for the Browns, starting 13 games his rookie season and following it up with two consecutive 16-start campaigns (2008, 2009).
In 2010, Wright had what many have termed as a ‘down season’. This started during the Browns’ Week 3 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. In the contest Wright allowed Anquan Boldin to register 142 yards and three touchdowns. It carried through the season and it seemed as if Wright had lost his confidence and he eventually would lose his starting job.
However, Cunningham didn’t see a down season.
“What I saw, on tape, he played as good as any corner in the NFL,” said Cunningham. “He’s really fast, got perfect size, great athletic skills. Whatever is in his mind I’m going make sure I exorcise it.”
Cunningham continued: “To me, there’s only one athlete like this in the NFL and he’s old. That’s Champ Bailey. This guy is one of the most outstanding athletes to come out of the draft in a long time… he’s smart, he’s into the game. What happens in this league is like any professional sport. One guy says the wrong thing and they lose their confidence and maybe that’s what happened to him. When I watched the tape and watched him play, I saw the same guy.”
Perhaps it wasn’t only Cunningham that noticed. It was reported by Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Wright turned down a longer term deal worth more money to sign a one-year pact with the Lions. She also reported he spoke to 12 teams.
Wright has looked solid in practice, displaying the talents that caught Cunningham’s eye before he even entered the NFL.
Now, Wright figures to play a significant role in the Lions’ defense and should have an impact on the 2011 season.