September 12, 2014

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Detroit Lions rookie Nevin Lawson was supposed to get a quiet introduction to the NFL on Monday night.

It didn't quite work out that way.

When starting cornerback Bill Bentley tore his ACL early in the game, Lawson was thrown immediately into the fire against Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and the Giants, and he'll remain there this Sunday against Cam Newton and the Panthers.

''We weren't expecting Nevin to play that much, obviously, but every player on our roster knows that they are one play away from being on the field,'' defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. ''He did a nice job out there, and he's trying to learn as fast and as well as he can to be ready for the Panthers.''

The shortage of defensive backs was a particular problem against the Giants because Detroit spent almost every snap in the nickel defense. That meant Lawson was on the field for every play, not just in passing situations.

''It felt like I was OK,'' he said Thursday. ''There were some things that I saw on the film that I need to work on, but it wasn't bad. I definitely think that having that game experience is going to help me going forward, because there's no way to duplicate that in practice or even a preseason game.''

The Lions haven't picked up a cornerback to replace Bentley, but coach Jim Caldwell said that they have a plan.

''We've got two defensive backs on our practice squad in (Nate) Ness and (Mohammad) Seisay that we feel can step in and perform for us,'' he said. ''They've been working in our scheme, and that how I think the system should work - there might be times when you need a veteran, but most of the time, you should be looking to the guys on your practice squad.''

With the Lions choosing not to bring in a veteran, Lawson will be at the nickel against Newton in Carolina.

''You can never have enough cornerbacks in this league, but we trust the ones we've got with us right now,'' Austin said. ''The game action will help Nevin, and with their power-running game, I don't expect we will be in the nickel nearly as much as we were against the Giants. I would think we'll have three linebackers on the field more often.''

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