Bobby Price has quite the challenge — and quite the opportunity.
Price, the Detroit Lions’ second-year defensive back, is a few days into a position change that head coach Dan Campbell said could unlock his massive potential.
Price, who signed with the Lions as undrafted free agent last spring, played safety in college and spent last season entrenched at the position in the NFL. He spent most of last year on the practice squad, signed for two late-season games, where he saw action exclusively on special teams, and was competing for time as a fifth safety up until last week.
That’s when the Lions, intrigued by Price’s unique combination of size (6 feet 3) and speed (he ran track in college), moved him to cornerback.
“He’s a baby fawn right now as it pertains to corner, but he’s so talented,” Campbell said. “And we kind of feel like this may actually be the better move for him. But to know that, let’s just say hypothetically, you start getting down to cut time and we know he can help us on special teams and he just continues to grow as a corner and develop, but also can play a little safety if you have to have it, that’s pretty valuable. That’s pretty valuable. So, our eyes are on Bobby Price.”
Price played 19 snaps in Friday’s preseason-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills, with mixed results.
He saw time at both safety and cornerback, and was on the field for most of the Bills’ game-winning field goal drive late in the fourth quarter.
Price started that series by swatting away a pass to Tanner Gentry, when he showed good technique, staying glued to Gentry’s inside hip after giving up an inside release.
Two plays later, on fourth-and-10, Price got beat deep down the sideline for a 42-yard gain by Marquez Stevenson that set up Buffalo’s go-ahead score.
Price got beat easily off the line on that play, but given the context, that should not put his roster spot in jeopardy anytime soon.
The Lions must cut from 90 to 85 players by Tuesday, and get down to 80 players next week. All NFL teams have until Aug. 31 to set their 53-man rosters.
“He really just started getting reps at corner a couple of days ago,” Campbell said.
The reality is, Price is a rare enough athlete that it makes sense to pile as much cornerback work on his plate as possible the next two weeks and see what sticks.
Odds are against him making the initial 53-man roster. Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, Mike Ford and Ifeatu Melifonwu are locked into spots at cornerback, and Nickell Robey-Coleman, Corn Elder, A.J. Coleman and Jerry Jacobs are more ready to contribute at the position now.
But as Campbell said, Price can be a special teams ace (like Ford and safety C.J. Moore), and depending how quickly he comes along, his developmental upside may prove too tempting to let go.
“Bobby is very intriguing,” Campbell said. “Very intriguing because he’s a long, linear, explosive athlete who’s been playing safety. Man, we think he can really help us on special teams, but now we’re not so sure that he may not be a corner, because he runs so good and he is a really good athlete. Look, we’re intrigued.”