How Lions will handle injuries at nickel

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Detroit’s injury-go-corner is continuing to spin.

What began as a comfortable position entering the season with the improving Bill Bentley turned into a question mark with Nevin Lawson when Bentley suffered a torn ACL. Then Lawson sustained dislocated toes, leaving veteran Cassius Vaughn as the next corner up.

That might have lasted less than a week.

The slot cornerbacks have been dropping all over the place – in games and even in practice this week with Vaughn being limited Wednesday and out Thursday, leaving him at least questionable for Sunday.

Not knowing who could be at the nickel can change what defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and head coach Jim Caldwell want to do during a week.

“There are some things you can do exactly the same,” Caldwell said. “There are some things that happen where all of a sudden you have to play towards that individual’s strengths so it allows you to do some things that you weren’t able to do before.

“The antithesis of that would be that there are some weaknesses that may come to light as well so schematically you want to stay away from those things that put you in bad positions.”

This is what the Lions have to figure out, especially if Vaughn ends up unable to play. If that is the case, Detroit will either move Rashean Mathis inside on Randall Cobb and play newly signed free agent Danny Gorrer on the outside, have Gorrer play the slot or drop Don Carey down into the slot -- a position he has played before.

Considering Vaughn’s status as of now, it might be a combination of things throughout the game.

The real damage, though, is what happens in games when the Lions lose a nickel corner.

All the preparation the Lions do all week, all the communication Glover Quin, Mathis and Darius Slay have prepared with the slot cornerback all of a sudden becomes meaningless. That practice time suddenly has much less worth.

What went in as planned has become instinctual for Detroit the past two weeks, as Bentley turned into Lawson and then Vaughn at the nickel.

“I don’t think it takes away because some of those things are just game plan things as far as stuff that we’ve seen on film and we want to do this week. Just the basic system and the scheme don’t change,” Quin said. “If you’re working with just one guy and you’re doing certain things in practice and as a veteran player you may go to them and say, ‘Hey if we get this look in a game, let’s do this. When we get this look, this is how we’re going to play it. If we get this look in practice, let’s do this right here and if it works in practice, in a game this is how we’re going to play this.

“When you’re in a game, that’s what you’re expecting with that guy. When you get a new guy in there, I can’t go to him and say this is what we’re going to do because we haven’t talked about that that week so you have to just play it normal and let your rules be your guide.”

If one thing is certain, though, the Lions understand how to cope with an injury to a secondary that has been full of them already.