Second-year cornerback Cameron Sutton was in the starting lineup with the first-team defense for the final two practices at OTAs late in the week, according to Jacob Klinger, in place of Artie Burns.
It probably helps to know that Burns, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ third-year starter at right outside cornerback, was not in attendance for those practices, so this should not be construed as his job being up for competition. Whether or not that ends up being the case—I wouldn’t expect it to be much of a competition, if any—this only came about because he wasn’t there.
Of course, no matter the reason, it was good for Sutton to get those reps. Klinger wrote that the cornerback told him they were “better reps in a defensive backfield that is positioning itself to play more aggressive, press-man coverages in 2018”.
Sutton, a third-round pick in 2017, spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve, but was designated for return in the second half of the year after Joe Haden was injured. He received playing time, including one start, over the course of the last several games of the regular season.
“I’m not really wide-eyed about taking those reps or being out there on the field with those guys”, he said about getting those first-team reps in practice over the course of the past couple of days. “I’ve been out there with them before, but it’s been good though”.
He also confirmed that the coaches have talked about him potentially playing the role of a dimebacker this season, though he acknowledged, as have several other defenders, that the staff never got around to installing the dime defense during OTAs. It will be interesting to see if they work on that during minicamp, because if not, it will have to wait until they get to Latrobe.
Sutton told Klinger that while he is likely to take any snaps he gets this season on the inside, he feels his best position is still on the outside. “Obviously I’m more comfortable at corner, that’s where I’ve played”, he said, referring both to last season and to his college career. He and Mike Hilton both said that they took some reps at safety during OTAs.
Another interesting nugget that Klinger shares is that Sutton told him the communication has been simplified on the defensive side of the ball, due in part because they are also using simpler and more aggressive sets.
“Guys are just talking and flying around making plays on the ball. And that’s kind of contagious for us. You see guys excelling out there on the field making plays. It’s spread around the whole defense”.
He may be a young up-and-comer, but Sutton will still have his hands full trying to find time on defense, barring injuries. He figures to be the fourth cornerback on the depth chart, though the first man up at any position, behind Burns, Haden, and Hilton. Brian Allen, Coty Sensabaugh, and Dashaun Phillips are the other prominent names behind him.