ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Bill Bentley thought he was just OK in the Detroit Lions’ exhibition opener. Coach Jim Schwartz would prefer that his rookie cornerback leave the criticism to him.
“It’s not his job to grade his performance, it’s his job to go play and he can play better,” Schwartz said Sunday. “He left a couple of plays on the field.”
The third-round selection had an interception in Friday’s 19-17 loss to Cleveland and broke up another pass Schwartz thought he should have picked off. He broke up two passes in the game and had a tackle after starting opposite six-year veteran Chris Houston.
“I’ve got to be technically sound and know my assignments,” Bentley said. “You learn really quick that you have to play fast.”
He’s the likely starter after supplanting veteran Alphonso Smith. Bentley and Houston have seen most of the reps as the starting corners as Detroit works to upgrade a defense that was 22nd against the pass last season.
Bentley was one of three defensive backs the Lions drafted in April to bolster a secondary that struggled late in the season and in Detroit’s 45-28 wildcard loss to New Orleans.
He got a leg up on earning a starting spot when the Lions released Aaron Berry after a pair of arrests. Smith, a four-year veteran who played in 11 games and started once last season, was demoted to the second team.
Bentley was burned on an early pass, but recovered with an interception of Brandon Weeden during the Browns’ next drive.
“Once I settled down, it was just football,” he said. “The speed was kind of fast, but once I settled down, I felt pretty comfortable with myself.”
Schwartz was critical of his entire team’s performance, but had some compliments for Bentley.
“He set a high standard for himself and I think that’s good,” the coach said. “He’s doing a good job for a rookie, but still there’s a long way to go.
“He’s shown he can make a play, he just needs to be more consistent.”
Bentley played in the Senior Bowl after a career at Louisiana-Lafayette. He’s listed on the roster as Dwight Bentley but prefers Bill, the nickname he picked up during high school in Pahokee, Fla.
Beyond Houston and Smith, there’s precious little experience on the corners. Nearly all the rest of the players that have seen reps there this summer were signed before camp began.
The Lions continue the exhibition season Friday night at Baltimore.