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Lions corner back Nevin Lawson appears ready to start opposite Darius Slay

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Detroit Lions in 2016 is who will start at cornerback opposite Darius Slay.

The likely candidates for the number two spot on the depth chart are Alex Carter, Quandre Diggs, and Nevin Lawson.

Lawson looks to have the inside track as of now after replacing an injured Rashean Mathis in the starting lineup for the final nine games of 2015. The pairing of Lawson and Slay proved to be effective, allowing only two quarterbacks to throw for over 300 yards in the nine game span. Those two quarterbacks were Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees who needed 61 and 52 pass attempts respectively to eclipse the 300 yard mark.

Despite being the favorite to earn the starting nod, Lawson isn’t going to get complacent, telling DetroitLions.com columnist Mike O’Hara:

“The way I approach this year, I’m coming in to prove that I should be the starter” Lawson said. “I know nothing is given, and you can never take anything for granted. I want to prove I deserve to be the starter.”

“I think I did a great job, but that was last year. I feel like I have to improve tremendously this year. You can never feel too secure and too comfortable. You have to always keep that edge.”

Though it can be hard to keep that edge when there’s no bona-fide locker room voice in your position group, having a good rapport with your teammates makes it easier to hold each other accountable. The aforementioned Rashean Mathis retired earlier in the off-season and the 13-year NFL veteran was the unquestioned leader of the secondary in Detroit. However, Lawson’s comments make it sound as if there’s a respect among the defensive backs that won’t make them hesitate to bark in another’s ear if they feel they’re not pulling their weight.

“It’s definitely fun,” Lawson said. “You know these guys are basically in the same age group. They have the same experiences. But we hang out as a whole DB group.”

A desire and drive to get better and prove himself: Check. Respect for his teammates and his craft: Check. Realizing that playing in the NFL is a privilege very few men get to ever experience?

“Definitely; it’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “An NFL career is not long. If it’s God’s will, you have to put in everything and take advantage of every opportunity. You don’t want to be done and wish you’d taken it seriously.”

Check.

If Nevin Lawson can produce on the field he will quickly become a fan favorite. The third year corner has a great head on his shoulders and knows this is an opportunity that he cannot waste. But at one point during his rookie season, he may have thought his career would end as quickly as it began.

In Game 2 of his rookie campaign, Lawson dislocated his left foot and didn’t play again the rest of the year.

“I felt like I was starting over,” Lawson said. “I had to work myself back into it.”

Lawson spent much of last year getting himself back into shape and hoping his number would be called again, and when Mathis went down in Week 7, it was.

“I felt like I prepared myself for the opportunity,” Lawson said. “I go by the motto that it’s better to prepare for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not prepare.”

Lawson certainly seemed well-prepared. He played well enough last season to earn himself a potential starting spot this season on a defense that looks to be much improved from their middle of the pack ranking in 2015.

It’s clear as crystal that Lawson knows how to talk the talk, but now it’s time to get down to the brass tax and see if he is capable of holding down his side of the field for a 16-game slate. If Lawson proves to be up to the challenge, he would provide great value to a defense and team that could surprise a lot of people in 2016.

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