With minicamp in the books, the Detroit Lions won't return to the practice field until the start of training camp in late July. That's when the position battles will begin in earnest and none should be as fierce as the competition for the starting cornerback job opposite Chris Houston.

The Lions have five candidates -- Ron Bartell, Bill Bentley, Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood and Darius Slay -- and any of them could emerge victorious based on their performance in camp and the preseason.

Signed in the middle of the 2012 season after he was cut by the Oakland Raiders, Bartell was the one running with the first team during minicamp.

The eight-year veteran has the most experience, by far, with 72 starts, including the finale last season. In that game against the Chicago Bears he made nine tackles and broke up a pass.

"He's got good size for a corner," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "He's got experience, plays with good technique, he's tough. He's a veteran player. He deserves to go out there when we put our first groups out there.

"Ron's had a good offseason. He came to us late last year and he picked things up quickly, played pretty well in the game against the Bears. He'll be right in the mix, based on the way he's been in the OTAs and through the offseason program."

Bentley, a third-round draft pick in 2012, earned the starting job last season with a stellar training camp. But his campaign was derailed early after a preseason shoulder injury lingered into the regular season.

Working as a nickelback with the first team defense last week, Bentley slid into Houston's spot after the veteran suffered an injury on the third and final day of minicamp. Bentley didn't seem to miss a beat.

"Even when we had him last year early in camp, he was a play-maker," Schwartz said. "You know, he got his hands on balls, he plays with a lot of spirit. He's out there and he competes all the time.