Lions like Carter’s size as he adapts to safety

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Even before he was drafted, draft analysts were speculating about Alex Carter moving to safety in the future. Coming out of Stanford, he was a tick slower than many of the top-end corners, but he had the size, smarts and tackling ability to handle the responsibilities at safety.

After struggling to see the field as a cornerback his first two seasons, the Lions pulled the trigger on a position switch to start this offseason. It’s a last-gasp effort to see if they can tap into whatever potential the former third-round pick has to offer.

So far, the Lions like what they’ve seen.

“Yeah, that’s a move that we made early on to give him an opportunity to line up at that position,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “We’ll see in the long run, but we just think that he has the bulk, the size and those kinds of things that are conducive to playing that spot. I think he’s adapting and learning it.”

Position changes, especially at the professional level, are more difficult than many realize. For every Kerry Hyder — who dropped 40 pounds shifting from defensive tackle to defensive end before leading the Lions in sacks in 2016 — many others fail. A player must learn new assignments, process information differently and alter their techniques.

But Caldwell noted it’s easier for a cornerback to move to safety than the other way around.

“It’s a bit easier going from outside to inside in terms of skill set (rather) than inside to outside,” Caldwell said. “It’s still seeing things from a little different vantage point. A little bit more of responsibility in terms of how many calls you make and things of that nature. Adjusting to the defense, playing with linebackers in those settings, companion sort of coverages and things of that nature.

“There’s some adjustment to do. It’s just seeing the field from a little different vantage point. Things are more straight at you as opposed to from an angle when you play the corner.”

Carter’s path to a roster spot will be a steep one, regardless of the position he’s playing in the defensive backfield. At safety, the team didn’t make any significant additions, but return starters Glover Quin and Tavon Wilson, top backup Miles Killebrew and special teams standout Don Carey.

The team did carry five safeties last season, but Rafael Bush signed with the New Orleans Saints this offseason.