Detroit – Lions rookie cornerback Jamal Agnew appeared to be in the right place at the right time.
But as it turns out, he was actually out of position.
With the New York Jets facing a third-and-6 at the Lions’ 13-yard line, Agnew broke up Bryce Petty’s intended pass for Jordan Leggett in the back of the end zone early in the fourth quarter of Detroit’s 16-6 preseason win Saturday night at Ford Field.
“To be honest, I was in the wrong spot,” said Agnew, a fifth-round pick. “It worked out perfectly fine. I had pretty good poise. The coaches do a really job coaching breaking on the ball and somehow got my hand in there and made a play on the ball.”
Agnew’s disruption forced the Jets to settle for a 31-yard field goal for their first points. It was “bittersweet” rebound after he gave up a 23-yard completion to Myles White down the left sideline on the first play of the fourth quarter and was picked on by Petty throughout New York’s 13-play scoring drive.
“I feel like Jamal held up great,” cornerback Nevin Lawson said. “As a corner, things like that are going to happen. They're going to come at you, but it's up to you to answer.”
Agnew also flashed his potential on consecutive plays during the previous defensive series, getting pressure on Petty to force an incompletion and teaming with linebacker Paul Worrilow to stop White short of the sticks on a third-and-10.
Despite giving up several receptions, Agnew kept mostly everything in front of him and finished with a team-high six tackles, including five solo. He also received a pair of opportunities on special teams, with a 17-yard kickoff return and a 6-yard punt return.
"Definitely some good things and some bad things. There's some ups and downs there, but it's trial by fire,” Agnew said. “It felt good out there to see the speed of the game a little bit more and made a couple mistakes, but I know what I got to correct. The good thing about it is we got a couple more preseason games and we got practice, so I'm looking forward to that.”
Agnew added he’s relying more on his technique compared to the college game, but noted playing that technique at full speed and knowing what to expect on differing downs and distances is something he has to work on.
“That's next-level stuff compared to college,” he said. “Definitely at this level, you have to have that in your thought process while you're on the field.”
While Agnew continues to experience growing pains and progress during the preseason, Lawson is already encouraged by the strides he’s making.
“He's getting better. I see it, I know it,” Lawson said. “I think one thing he did already a great job of is getting that defensive scheme down. So once you get that defensive scheme down, now you have to get that defensive technique down.
“I feel like that's one of the things as a corner and defensive back, you always got to work on your technique so you always got to continue to fine tune that. At the end of the day, though, he'll be a great player."