The Detroit Lions have been chasing a strong secondary seemingly since the days after Lem Barney and Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane roamed the sidelines, and finally, it looks as if the team is building the kind of roster that could sustain some elite performances in the second level.
After a solid season of development from the defensive backfield in 2021 when nearly everything went wrong, the Lions once again made a calculated addition this offseason, signing cornerback Mike Hughes to a one-year deal. The contract was a prove-it deal for Hughes as much as it was for the Lions considering how his career has gone to this point in time. A one-time first-round pick, Hughes has battled injury
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Speaking to the media on Wednesday, March 23 in an interview posted to DetroitLions.com, Hughes, who was just signed to the roster, spoke about his motivation for the coming season upon singing with Detroit. As he explained, a lot of that pressure is self-made considering Hughes believes he can be one of the top players in the league at his position and is motivated to show it.
After a decent 2021 year in Kansas City, Hughes isn’t done showing the league what he can do. Far from it, actually. As he explained, he is not finished and wants to prove he can be even better with the Lions.
“I think I still got a lot to prove. Coming off those significant injuries, I don’t think a lot of guys can bounce back from those. I’m just blessed to be in this position to show that I can come back, be the player that I know I can be and be even better,” Hughes told the media.
After a neck injury late in the 2019 season and another injury in 2020 hampered his development, Hughes got back into the swing of things, and as he said, 2021 was all about rediscovering some long-lost confidence as well as getting back to what he believes the game is all about.
“Just getting my confidence back. Trusting my body, trusting the people that I work with to get my body back right. Just going out there, playing ball and having fun. That’s the most important thing,” Hughes said. “When you start worrying about injuries and other things, I think that’s when things start to actually happen. For me, I’m just trying to go out there, play ball and have fun at the end of the day.”
Hughes has shown the ability to play gritty football before as well as make big plays. The genius behind a lot of Detroit’s flyer signings has been their ability to pay off for both team and player. To this end, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see that happen once again with Hughes.
Hughes Will Strongly Fit Lions’ 2022 Secondary
Hughes is another well-calculated gamble by the Lions in terms of a young player who can fill in and perhaps find a new leaf. At cornerback, the team witnessed production from a pair of undrafted free agents in AJ Parker and Jerry Jacobs. The play of both looks like it will be good enough to shore up the position into the future. In addition to those players, the Lions watched as Amani Oruwariye became a star this season, and the team still has Jeff Okudah on the roster, though he will be coming off injury in 2022. Additionally, the team will have a player in Ifeatu Melifonwu looking to take the next step from his rookie year. Add it all up and there is certainly reason to feel positive about the future of the group moving forward. The Lions could certainly draft or sign underrated players to fill in at both spots, and it’s clear that in Hughes they could have found another player to help for depth’s sake.
When push come to shove, Hughes may be able to be another underrated player to come in and give the Lions some quality depth while fighting for a bigger role. There’s no question the team could expect him to scrap.
Hughes’ Stats & Highlights
Still young at just 25, Hughes was a first-round pick of the rival Minnesota Vikings back in 2018 out of UCF. Hughes had an up and down start to his career with the Vikings, which led to him being traded last offseason to Kansas City. Hughes has been statistically decent even if he hasn’t been dominating with 144 tackles, 7 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions, 2 touchdowns and 18 passes defended. Perhaps his biggest play came in 2021 when he sealed a game against Cleveland with an interception:
Hughes will come to the Lions with a chance to find a home early in his career, and after listening to him speak, it’s not wise to bet against him being able to do just that.