They keep a board to record takeaways for defensive players at Halas Hall and teammates have been giving Isaiah Frey a hard time.
The nickel cornerback has yet to get one while 11 players already have at least one interception, forced fumble or fumble recovery. Getting his hands on the ball is how Frey distinguished himself in the offseason and training camp when he was making as many -- or more -- plays as any defensive back.
When Kelvin Hayden was lost for the season with a torn hamstring Aug. 3, it was a big blow. Hayden is a veteran who excelled in the role a year ago. But Frey, who was battling for a roster spot, had performed so well, he gave the coaches confidence there would not be a drop-off.
Coming off a big test Sunday against the Steelers when he was on the field for 36 of the 65 snaps, Frey has another challenge ahead of him. It's not known how the loss of wide receiver Nate Burleson to a broken arm will affect the Lions' game plan Sunday at Ford Field. With Burleson, the Lions likely would have come out in a lot of three-wide receiver sets, which mandate the Bears go with their nickel package.
The Lions still might go to that personnel, and they could try to isolate Calvin Johnson in the slot on Frey. It's a given Frey will be needed extensively in Week 5, when the Saints visit Soldier Field. The Saints like to use Marques Colston in the middle of the field, another intriguing matchup for the young player. His playing time is expected to increase after he received only 14 nickel snaps in the opener against the Bengals and 19 against the Vikings because both teams went heavy with two tight ends.
"It will be interesting to see how he continues to grow," secondary coach Jon Hoke said. "The Lions run a lot more three wide. That will definitely challenge us."
Hoke has taken over coaching the nickel back. Lovie Smith used to personally coach the nickel back beginning when Danieal Manning played the position. Manning would go to the head coach's office for one-on-one position meetings. Then, Smith's son Mikal inherited the job. Now Hoke has all the defensive backs in his room for meetings. It's probably helpful for Frey, a sixth-round pick last year, to see how the entire defensive backfield interconnects.
Frey, who played nickel at Nevada, spent all of last season on the practice squad but was used as a cornerback on the outside. He was not shifted inside until this offseason, a decision that was made because he has good anticipation and short-area quickness.
"I've seen him grow up," Hoke said. "Kelvin was an excellent mentor to him. Kelvin is one of those players that will spend time with a young guy to help him get better. Even though they were competing for the same position, that is just the type of guy Kelvin Hayden is. And Frey listened to him. ... So it was a great learning opportunity for him and I have seen him grow."
Frey hasn't made many big plays yet. He stuffed Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer for no gain on two second-half runs. Frey blitzed off the edge in the second quarter and left tackle Kelvin Beachum abandoned Henry Melton to pick him up. That allowed Melton to be in the face of Ben Roethlisberger when he threw the interception Major Wright returned for a touchdown.
Frey has tackled well, but the nickel spot is for a playmaker, a guy who can routinely be around the ball in the middle of the field. That hasn't translated yet from the summer to the regular season, although he would have had a fumble recovery against the Vikings had a replay not overturned it.
It is a matter of Frey making some defining plays now as he settles into the role.
"I am one of the last ones to not be on the board," he said. "Hopefully I can join the party on Sunday."
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