Mike Tomlin: Intellect, preparation are new Detroit Lions CB Cam Sutton’s calling cards

Detroit Free Press

PHOENIX – A high football IQ is almost always one of the first things former coaches bring up when talking about new Detroit Lions cornerback Cam Sutton, but Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Sutton’s value goes beyond his intellect on the field.

“I always hesitate because the first thing I think about is his above-the-neck game, his maturity and his preparation,” Tomlin said Monday at the NFL’s annual spring meeting. “But in stating that first, you’re almost disrespectful to his talents. He’s a talented guy.”

Sutton, 28, had a career-high three interceptions last season in his second year as a full-time starter and has been an ascending player in Pittsburgh’s secondary for several years.

A third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2017, Sutton played primarily in nickel and dime packages his first four seasons in Pittsburgh before taking a starting outside role in 2021.

Last season, Sutton held opposing quarterbacks to a 47.9% completion percentage and 65.3 passer rating, according to Pro Football Reference, and had a career-high 15 passes defensed.

The Lions overhauled their secondary in free agency, adding three projected starters — Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson — to a group that returns Jerry Jacobs, Jeff Okudah and Kerby Joseph, and expects to get Tracy Walker back from a torn Achilles.

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Sutton and Moseley, who is recovering from a torn ACL, were college teammates at Tennessee.

“We just want to be leaders of the group,” Moseley said. “Coach as much as we can, learn from (the guys returning), things they do well, they can learn from us things we do well and most of all we’re just going to compete in that room. The competition makes things better and that’s how I learned, that’s how I always got better. I’ve known Cam from college. He was always smart. He’s always smart, always physical, helping me with my game so I’m ready to continue to learn from him and also can teach him things I can do, and just bring that to the group. I think that’ll be great.”

Tomlin said Sutton’s calling cards as a player are his intellect, preparation and communication skills, and those things should help him excel in Detroit.

“I just think it allows him to be versatile,” Tomlin said. “He does a good job of getting people around him on the same page and I’d imagine that those are skill sets that are going to travel.”

‘Battle tested’

An undrafted free agent coming out of college, Moseley worked his way into a starting job with the San Francisco 49ers before suffering a season-ending injury last October.

New Houston Texans coach DeMeco Ryans, Moseley’s former defensive coordinator with the 49ers, called Moseley a “tough, hard-nosed corner” and said he’s happy to see his former pupil land a potential starting gig in Detroit.

“He’s gone through ups and downs through his career with injuries,” Ryans told reporters. “I’m happy to see him get a shot there in Detroit. And you’re getting an unbelievable person off the field and you’re also getting a competitor. In practice, each and every day, E-Man is a competitor. Every rep is a game rep for him. That’s what has set him apart and allowed him to make it in the NFL.”

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Moseley has started all 16 games he’s played over the past two seasons, with two interceptions. He has not allowed a touchdown since 2020.

“E-Man is battle-tested,” Ryans said. “He’s played in big games, he’s played on the big stage and he has big-time play-making ability. I’m happy for E-Man.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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