ALLEN PARK, Mich. - Stanley Wilson and Daniel Bullocks each started training camp knowing what it's like to fill the role of an NFL starting defensive back.
Wilson and Bullocks worked their way into the Detroit Lions lineup last season, growing more comfortable and confident with each game. But the pair of young defenders enters this season with the expectation that they'll be slated as starters from the start, providing the motivation to make the most of preseason workouts.
"This is just an opportunity for me to come out and be more and more consistent each and every day at practice," said Wilson, a third-year cornerback who started the Lions' final four games in 2006, finishing with 44 tackles. "The more I'm able to do that, the more it will show up in the games. It's just trying to be better and refine the things I've learned so far."
Bullocks, a second-year safety, entered camp with high expectations after leading all NFC rookie defensive backs with 70 tackles and starting seven times for Detroit. He's set to move into a starting role this year - his goal throughout his rookie season.
After a year that provided him with so much playing time, Bullocks finds himself able to play at a faster pace in the preseason, which, he said will only prepare him to do more when the regular season begins.
"I've got a year up under my belt," Bullocks said. "So you know exactly what you're doing and what the guys are doing around you and so it allows you to react much quicker."
Both Wilson and Bullocks said last year's experience as starters also changes the way they approach watching film and studying their playbooks. With playing time comes greater knowledge of complex offensive schemes they will face.
Still, as much as they feel like they've grown in their respective roles, Wilson and Bullocks realize they can't afford to take starting for granted. Lions coach Rod Marinelli said after yesterday's practice that he likes the competition he sees in Detroit's starting backfield - a factor that pushes both Wilson and Bullocks to continue to push themselves.
"I'm still learning," Wilson said. "This is the first year I'm going into as a starter so I'm trying to go in and pick up more and more. There's veterans six years in that are still learning and so I just want to continue to improve my game.
"You have to stay on top of your game and know the game is evolving and so you need to evolve as a player."
Notes: WR Roy Williams missed practice with a sore hamstring, but should be fine to play in Saturday's preseason game at Cleveland. WR Mike Furrey also sat out with a bruised knee while coaches kept LB Boss Bailey out to give him rest. LB Ernie Sims sat out with a bruised shoulder as did LB Teddy Lehman, whose progress continues to be monitored. DE Kalimba Edwards left practice after rolling his right ankle.
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