Lions’ Bush, Wilson still jostling for safety spot

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Tavon Wilson (32) has 18 tackles this season.

Allen Park — While most of the Lions starting jobs have been locked down heading into the regular season, there’s still one position that remains unsettled — strong safety.

Free-agent additions Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson have been the fron-trunners for the No. 1 role throughout training camp, ahead of veteran Don Carey, second-year man Isaiah Johnson and rookie Miles Killebrew.

Bush took first-team reps during the first three weeks of camp and started opposite free safety Glover Quin in the first two exhibitions against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. Wilson earned the start last weekend against the Baltimore Ravens and appears to have the inside track in the competition.

Through three exhibitions, Wilson has played 79 snaps to Bush’s 74. Wilson also ranks second on the team with nine tackles — trailing rookie linebacker Antwione Williams’ 13 tackles — while Bush has four.

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“It’s been extremely competitive and both guys have done well,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said earlier this week. “Both guys have tackled well. Both guys run with the ball extremely well and that bodes well, I think for us. Obviously, we have two veteran guys that have certainly been extremely active and they’ve done a great job.”

Caldwell said some starters will see limited action in tonight’s exhibition finale against the Buffalo Bills, which could also serve as a final audition for Bush and Wilson.

Bush has 14 career starts in four seasons with the New Orleans Saints, but has had the past two seasons cut short due to injuries. Wilson, a 2012 second-round pick of the New England Patriots, hasn’t made a start since his rookie year.

Quin said he’s confident whoever lines up alongside him in the regular-season opener in Indianapolis will do a good job.

"Everybody is competing. Guys are going out working every day, making plays, doing everything that's being asked,” Quin said. “It's been fun and obviously been going at it for a while, so I think everybody has done a good job from the safety group and even the whole secondary.

“We’re just competing every day and that's how we're going to get better."

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The Lions defense is coming off back-to-back subpar performances in the preseason, allowing the Bengals to score a touchdown on an 8-play, 74-yard drive on their first possession and surrendering two field goals and two touchdowns to the Ravens in the first half.

Quin said there are some areas the defense has to clean up, but the most important thing is the defensive unit will enter the season “fairly healthy.”

“We haven't really lost anybody on the D-line. We lost (Jon) Bostic at the linebacker, but we got (DeAndre) Levy back and Tahir (Whitehead),” Quin said. “Then in the secondary we haven't really lost anybody, (just) a couple young guys, to injury. In this game, if you're healthy — and everybody has good players so it's all about who's the healthiest and who's ready to go.

“I think if we can get out of preseason, get out of training camp healthy, I think that gives us a great chance going into Week 1."