The Detroit Lions’ secondary isn’t known for subtlety. They are shaping up to be a loud and assertive force on the field, yet one of their latest additions seems to be sneaking under the radar – cornerback Cameron Sutton. The veteran is rapidly assuming a leadership role, and whispers are circulating that he could be the best things to happen to the Lions this off-season.
Facing their primary need for a stronger cornerback, the Lions acted swiftly in the free agency, targeting the secondary and bringing onboard Sutton, alongside other notable additions like CJ Gardner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley. Sutton’s signing for a three-year, $33 million deal with $22.5 million guaranteed marks the Lions’ commitment to reinforcing their defense.
Cornering Success: Sutton Endorsed by PFF and other Media Outlets
As a third-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017, Sutton displayed impressive growth over his six seasons there. Originally a Swiss Army Knife for Mike Tomlin’s defense, Sutton developed into a full-time starter as the lead cornerback on the outside.
Last season, Pro Football Reference reported a commendable completion rate of just 47.9% and a 65.3 passer rating against his coverage. This statistic shows Sutton’s ability to effectively restrict opposing offenses and lock down the opposing number one receiver.
The @Lions have signed unrestricted free agent CB Cameron Sutton.
— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) March 16, 2023
But, perhaps the most telling endorsement comes from Pro Football Focus (PFF), an analytics platform for NFL player performance. Brad Spielberger, a writer for PFF, had been advocating for Sutton’s fit with the Lions even before the signing. He lauded Sutton’s past season, saying, “Sutton earned a career-best 72.2 grade as a full-time starter in 2022, allowing just 0.76 yards per coverage snap, good for 11th among cornerbacks with at least 200 coverage snaps on the season.”
In simple terms, Spielberger’s analysis shows Sutton limiting opposing receivers to less than a yard per snap. This places him among the top 11 cornerbacks last season in this metric.
But the praise doesn’t stop there.
In terms of yards allowed in his coverage last season, Sutton ranked ninth least, with a total of only 411 yards given up by players with a minimum of 400 snaps, as per PFF’s report. Sutton was on the field for a total of 931 snaps, 569 of which were in true coverage scenarios. The statistics signal Sutton’s consistency and command over his individual assignment, a key quality for a cornerback.
As pointed out by John “Doc” Maakaron of the Detroit Sports Podcast Network and Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports echoed PFF’s high regard for Sutton, drawing attention to his versatility. Despite his relatively smaller stature at 5-foot-11, 188 pounds, Sutton’s versatility allows him to excel in both inside and outside coverage.
Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports recognizes Sutton as a potential star for the Lions, stating, “Sutton allowed just a 54.6 passer rating in coverage last season with three interceptions, also having a career high in passes defensed (15).” This means that Sutton not only prevented successful passes but actively intercepted them, boosting his team’s possession and disrupting the opposition’s momentum.
Kerr further solidifies Sutton’s position in the elite group of cornerbacks, writing, “Sutton allowed the eighth-lowest passer rating in coverage last season among players targeted a minimum of 50 times, so he’s already one of the top cover corners in the game.”
Cornering Commitment: Sutton’s Passion for the Lions and Detroit
Sutton’s personal take on his role within the team and community resonates with commitment and passion. On the “Ermanni and Edwards with Maz Show,” Sutton emphasized, “I’m here to play football. I’m here to make an impact on the community and the people around me, and obviously in this organization.”
His vision extends beyond the game itself, focusing on the bigger picture. Drawing inspiration from his time with Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sutton is set to bring a similar dedication to the Lions. “Mike T was everything, man… the effect is bigger than just football, you know, it’s bigger than just the X’s and O’s… and just his overall dedication to his craft, man… it was really special to see,” Sutton reminisced.
In terms of what he brings to the Lions in 2023, Sutton keeps it simple and honest. “I’m just bringing myself, you know, I’m not bringing nothing short of who I am each and everyday… a true gritty person… someone who is going to come out here and compete, someone who is never gonna take a day off, a play off. Someone who’s going to lead and going to just do his job, man.”
Wearing number one, Sutton embodies the spirit of a leader, dedicated to placing not just the team but the entire city on the map. As the season draws near, it’s becoming clear that noise around Cam Sutton is about to get much louder.
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Photo Credit: © Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press