Detroit News sportswriters Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Justin Rogers take a look at the upcoming season for the Detroit Lions. Detroit News
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions have liked what they’ve seen from cornerback D.J. Hayden, enough to confirm he’ll have a role on defense in the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
“Oh, he’s going to be in there,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’ll be playing. As you guys know, we have a number of different packages and things that we do. He’ll play for us.”
But the team isn’t willing to say if the free-agent addition, and former first-round pick, did enough to pass Quandre Diggs on the depth chart and earn the starting nickel back job.
“There’s a possibility,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “He’s done a really good job, I’ll say that. How’s that? And he’ll be out there. Both of those guys will be out there.”
Hayden played well during the preseason, breaking up a pass in both the second and third preseason games before being held out of the fourth contest, along with Diggs.
Diggs also had a strong offseason, but had some struggles in the Week 3 game against the Patriots, with last season’s coverage struggles re-emerging.
Hayden can play both inside and outside. Caldwell acknowledged they have no plans to lock him into one spot.
“I think it’s beneficial to us,” Caldwell said. “Multiplicity is an advantage, especially when you have guys that can play different spots. Helps us with our depth as well.”
Whoever gets the most playing time of the pair will draw the unenviable task of trying to slow down Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who despite entering his 14th season, has averaged 108 receptions the past two years while operating primarily out of the slot.