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DETROIT LIONS 2021: Lions Draft: Draft a QB or the best kneecap biter?


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28 minutes ago, Moonlight said:

If the defense can be middle of the road they can compete with any team. Chicago doesn't have a QB, GB is deteriorating. For some reason we always seem to play AZ as an away game and have little success there.  After NO the schedule isn't that hard I think until the last three games. It would be exciting to have to beat Brady and TB at home to make the playoffs. I can dream.

It's a good dream, one that I often have. But then I eventually wake up.

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Not successfully you couldn’t 

I believe this is the first win the Lions have ever had in January.

I’m usually not one to get caught up in “celebrity” lives, but as a parent my ♥️ goes out to Matthew & Kelly. Her six hour brain surgery morphed into a twelve hour procedure, but she’s walking and

1 hour ago, Moonlight said:

If the defense can be middle of the road they can compete with any team. Chicago doesn't have a QB, GB is deteriorating. For some reason we always seem to play AZ as an away game and have little success there.  After NO the schedule isn't that hard I think until the last three games. It would be exciting to have to beat Brady and TB at home to make the playoffs. I can dream.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Lions compete for the playoffs. Many are sleeping on how good this offense will be. Stafford looked as good as ever last year and now he'll have Swift and Hockenson. Darrell Bevell proved to be a huge upgrade over Cooter so I trust the play calling more than in years past.

I'm not impressed by Green Bay or Chicago. Green Bay almost made the Super Bowl but they looked like an average to above average team all year and I don't think they improved. If the Lions and Packers played tomorrow I wouldn't think the Lions are overmatched or something.

Logically, they should be able to compete. The problem is they always find an incredibly stupid way to lose a game and then fall apart afterwards. And Patricia hasn't shown that he can keep the ship afloat when there's any adversity.

Edited by Apple Juice
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Those in 2 qb leagues or just someone who waits until all their league mates take a qb could find value with MS.  All 3 wrs are basically playing for contracts and what should be a better running game might keep the chains moving. Maybe the time to buy low.

Edited by Leroy Hoard
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1 hour ago, Leroy Hoard said:

 

Those in 2 qb leagues or just someone who waits until all their league mates take a qb could find value with MS.  All 3 wrs are basically playing for contracts and what should be a better running game might keep the chains moving. Maybe the time to buy low.

Hock in 2nd year, Swift is an improvement in pass catching RBs. Plus Stafford was as good as any QB not named Lamar Jackson last year. He was on pace for 5,000 yards, 38 TDs and 10 INTs last season. 

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2 hours ago, Leroy Hoard said:

It's a good dream, one that I often have. But then I eventually wake up.

Nothing changes till it does but I hear you. Lions seem to lose at least one game each year due to weird rule or strange referee call. Fans, refs league all seem to expect some type of Lion screwup or implosion.

Can hope that Quinn and Patricia have learned something along the way and with good OC and DC we can compete.

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3 hours ago, Apple Juice said:

It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Lions compete for the playoffs. Many are sleeping on how good this offense will be. Stafford looked as good as ever last year and now he'll have Swift and Hockenson. Darrell Bevell proved to be a huge upgrade over Cooter so I trust the play calling more than in years past.

I'm not impressed by Green Bay or Chicago. Green Bay almost made the Super Bowl but they looked like an average to above average team all year and I don't think they improved. If the Lions and Packers played tomorrow I wouldn't think the Lions are overmatched or something.

Logically, they should be able to compete. The problem is they always find an incredibly stupid way to lose a game and then fall apart afterwards. And Patricia hasn't shown that he can keep the ship afloat when there's any adversity.

This is what makes it so brutal.. it is rarely out of the realm of possibility.  But if you flip a coin, the Lions will lose... even if they win (#### you Steelers).

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On ‎4‎/‎28‎/‎2020 at 9:54 AM, King of the Jungle said:

I do agree with that 100%. I think Cephus will be a good player for us, but for years we have not had a consistent field-stretcher. I don't understand why this continues to be ignored. Honestly with the amount of cap space they had I was hoping they would have signed Robby Anderson to a 1-2 year deal just to see what kind of difference that made with our offense. 

Was hoping they would take a late flyer on Jones from Michigan.  Big target with good speed.  Needs some work but has upside.

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1 hour ago, Da Guru said:

Was hoping they would take a late flyer on Jones from Michigan.  Big target with good speed.  Needs some work but has upside.

I really wnated Colin Johnson.. went 1 or 2 picks before Cephus?

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There is an argument for positivity, there is a logical path/argument towards some form of success..

Defence - The line can be healthier. I don’t think we are ever going to be a massive pass rush team under this system but undoubtedly our line was hampered massively by injury. Hand didn’t get started, Daniels barely featured and Harrison disappeared. Hand and Shelton being available for the season would be a lift and help Flowers et al. There’s reason to believe that the LBs will improve this year with the addition of Collins to be the general on the field and Tavai a year further in. Harmon, Harris and Walker is a strong group at safety. If Okudah can be decent from the get go then Truffant and Okudah COULD be better than just having Slay the year before and we have decent depth here as well. We have a new DC 
 

Logically, there is a path to the D being better. 
 

Offence - Line has had some changes but I think it can at least be average and hopefully improve somewhat in run blocking. A fit Stafford is in his absolute prime right now I believe - no diminished arm or athleticism, but savvy with tons of experience. He could have an All-Pro year this upcoming season, and if we have even just a marginally better run game then this will help massively. We have the best RB locker room we’ve had in a long time. We have depth and experience at WR, and even a Marvin Hall is enough to offer some deep threat for us. Hockenson a year in. I really rate Bevell as well, liked how much he got play action going and LOVED his bold plays at times ( thinking the flea flicker opening down at Lambeau as an example ). 
 

Basically, it’s the Lions as they were for the first five odd games last season, except with a fitter slightly better D. That could and should  be enough for playoffs especially with the extra playoff slots 

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Sure, we have a chance. The division as a whole seems to have taken a step back, or at least lateral. Minnesota probably has the best team on paper, while Chicago seems to be where they are unless Trubisky or Foles plays well. GB still has the best QB but his protection/weapons aren’t great. Detroit has less holes and more strengths than a lot of teams. They also have a history of somehow managing to lose a close, meaningful game early on that just sets a tone. Last year it was letting AZ come back and tie the opener. Calvins td called back 2 years in a row. Those kinds of losses impact the team more than a game like vs KC last year where we hung in there til the end. Even though staffords injury would have derailed the season, it would be easier to be excited about this year if we were 4-3 when he went down instead of seesawing between .500 and a game under. 
 

I feel like our entire season will depend on the two moves we made on the right side of the oline, and of course staying healthy. 

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1 minute ago, tangfoot said:

8-8 ceiling

2-14 floor

 

No, I haven’t looked at their schedule

I would stretch the ceiling to 9-7 just because I think everyone went backwards in the division, but yes the floor is always deep with this team. You still a Detroit fan or have you converted to Baltimore?

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4 minutes ago, King of the Jungle said:

I would stretch the ceiling to 9-7 just because I think everyone went backwards in the division, but yes the floor is always deep with this team. You still a Detroit fan or have you converted to Baltimore?

I bleed Honolulu Blue. It’s a real medical condition, and generally a harbinger of an unhappy September through December. 
 

It has been a blast to root for the Ravens and even the Redskins for their one magical season, but if any of the local teams are playing the Loins, I have to root for them. 

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Just now, tangfoot said:

I bleed Honolulu Blue. It’s a real medical condition, and generally a harbinger of an unhappy September through December. 
 

It has been a blast to root for the Ravens and even the Redskins for their one magical season, but if any of the local teams are playing the Loins, I have to root for them. 

Nice to have some asset allocation....especially when your portfolio is mostly Detroit 😁

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20 minutes ago, King of the Jungle said:

Nice to have some asset allocation....especially when your portfolio is mostly Detroit 😁

I learned at an early age that to enjoy football I needed to have “another” team to also root for. It was the 80s, so I latched on to the Air Coryell Chargers. 
Different game times, different conference, another entirely snake bitten organization, it worked out perfectly 

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On 5/10/2020 at 4:55 AM, TartanLion said:

There is an argument for positivity, there is a logical path/argument towards some form of success..

Defence - The line can be healthier. I don’t think we are ever going to be a massive pass rush team under this system but undoubtedly our line was hampered massively by injury. Hand didn’t get started, Daniels barely featured and Harrison disappeared. Hand and Shelton being available for the season would be a lift and help Flowers et al. There’s reason to believe that the LBs will improve this year with the addition of Collins to be the general on the field and Tavai a year further in. Harmon, Harris and Walker is a strong group at safety. If Okudah can be decent from the get go then Truffant and Okudah COULD be better than just having Slay the year before and we have decent depth here as well. We have a new DC 
 

Logically, there is a path to the D being better. 
 

Offence - Line has had some changes but I think it can at least be average and hopefully improve somewhat in run blocking. A fit Stafford is in his absolute prime right now I believe - no diminished arm or athleticism, but savvy with tons of experience. He could have an All-Pro year this upcoming season, and if we have even just a marginally better run game then this will help massively. We have the best RB locker room we’ve had in a long time. We have depth and experience at WR, and even a Marvin Hall is enough to offer some deep threat for us. Hockenson a year in. I really rate Bevell as well, liked how much he got play action going and LOVED his bold plays at times ( thinking the flea flicker opening down at Lambeau as an example ). 
 

Basically, it’s the Lions as they were for the first five odd games last season, except with a fitter slightly better D. That could and should  be enough for playoffs especially with the extra playoff slots 

I mostly agree that on paper, it is a competitive team. They were super competitive last year until Stafford got hurt. They just found Lions ways to screw things up: blew a big lead to rookie QB in his first start, the KC 100 yard fumble return TD that would have been blown dead against any other team and the gift in Green Bay.

A couple thoughts:

1. You forgot Julian Okwara. The defense desperately needs him to be able to have success as a situational pass rusher. He won't be asked to do much in year 1, just get after the passer on 3rd down. We need 4-7 sacks from him because there is nobody else on the team with his athletic speed rush ability.

2. I am not as optimistic about Marvin Hall. He is 5'9" 195 and ran a 4.45 40. Given his size, that is actually a below average 40 time. He is 27 with very little experience as a receiver (he caught 25 passes his entire college career). He has been cut by 4 NFL teams and while he seemed to be exciting last year, he only caught 10 passes and had 1 TD. 

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1 hour ago, Ilov80s said:

I mostly agree that on paper, it is a competitive team. They were super competitive last year until Stafford got hurt. They just found Lions ways to screw things up: blew a big lead to rookie QB in his first start, the KC 100 yard fumble return TD that would have been blown dead against any other team and the gift in Green Bay.

A couple thoughts:

1. You forgot Julian Okwara. The defense desperately needs him to be able to have success as a situational pass rusher. He won't be asked to do much in year 1, just get after the passer on 3rd down. We need 4-7 sacks from him because there is nobody else on the team with his athletic speed rush ability.

2. I am not as optimistic about Marvin Hall. He is 5'9" 195 and ran a 4.45 40. Given his size, that is actually a below average 40 time. He is 27 with very little experience as a receiver (he caught 25 passes his entire college career). He has been cut by 4 NFL teams and while he seemed to be exciting last year, he only caught 10 passes and had 1 TD. 

Yep, your completely correct, Marvin Hall ain’t anybody really, more a sign that the rest of the passing offence is well rounded  so that if you have anybody with any form of speed they can make a difference. Even Marvin Hall seemed to, with limited catches where they were of the type that  they made a difference. Just makes me wonder what a real burner on this team could do for us. 
 

I wonder if we could make a move a bit later on to add something in this respect, maybe an Andy Isabella if he remains buried in Arizona, or Ross ( not that I like the player ) if he is out of favour at the Bengals. 

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6 minutes ago, TartanLion said:

Yep, your completely correct, Marvin Hall ain’t anybody really, more a sign that the rest of the passing offence is well rounded  so that if you have anybody with any form of speed they can make a difference. Even Marvin Hall seemed to, with limited catches where they were of the type that  they made a difference. Just makes me wonder what a real burner on this team could do for us. 
 

I wonder if we could make a move a bit later on to add something in this respect, maybe an Andy Isabella if he remains buried in Arizona, or Ross ( not that I like the player ) if he is out of favour at the Bengals. 

Yes to the bolded 100x over.

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Cory Undlin Lions new DC has not been a DC before. He was an asst coach with Pats for a while at the same time as Patricia. It is unclear how much he will be allowed to do regarding defensive scheme and play calling.

He has been described as a player's coach which may put him in conflict with Patricia's style.

So he is a wild card in  the question whether the Lions defense can or will improve.

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On 5/11/2020 at 8:24 AM, Foosball God said:

They'll be lucky to hit 6 wins this year.  I'm predicting 4-12.

I'm wondering how the team will respond to Martha's "win now" edict.  "Player's coaches" are generally well-liked enough by the players that they respond well and try to win to save the coach.  But that really doesn't seem to be the case here, as several of the moves have alienated significant portions of the locker room, or so it seems from the outside. 

I know players are always playing for their next contract, but I wonder how much heart they will have if they think there's a chance Patricia will be gone.

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2 minutes ago, Tornacl said:

I'm wondering how the team will respond to Martha's "win now" edict.  "Player's coaches" are generally well-liked enough by the players that they respond well and try to win to save the coach.  But that really doesn't seem to be the case here, as several of the moves have alienated significant portions of the locker room, or so it seems from the outside. 

I know players are always playing for their next contract, but I wonder how much heart they will have if they think there's a chance Patricia will be gone.

All true, but that might be why they have gotten rid of several good talents that used to be there. "Changing the culture" means getting rid of those types that did not buy in and replacing them with rookies + former Patriots who are used to all that. I'm not saying it will necessarily work with this current roster,  but that is what they are trying for. 

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1 hour ago, Leroy Hoard said:

All true, but that might be why they have gotten rid of several good talents that used to be there. "Changing the culture" means getting rid of those types that did not buy in and replacing them with rookies + former Patriots who are used to all that. I'm not saying it will necessarily work with this current roster,  but that is what they are trying for. 

I know the theory, just wondering how it will work in this instance.  Bill Belichick gets away with acting the way he does because he's a genius and wins. 

When they hired Quinn, I was very happy.  Before him, they always seemed to hire people that had either no experience (Matt Millen) or only had experience with the Lions.  Hard to know what you need to do to win, if you've never worked for an organization that won.

And with Patricia, I thought it was typical of the Lions, during his first season, anonymous players were complaining that his training camp and practices were too hard.  Again, hard to know how hard you have to work to win, if you've never won.  So I'm all for changing the culture, but how do you change the culture of ownership, which is where the losing culture seems to stem from?

I just don't think Quinn & Patricia are up to the job.  I think Quinn is too risk averse, and I think Patricia is arrogant.  If the team starts out 1-3 (which is entirely possible with their schedule), I don't see this team rallying to save Quinn & Patricia's jobs.  I can see something like this past season happening again, as things just come off the rails.  And with the way the schedule ends, they could really be in trouble.

I just hope that the next GM (or someone who is central to making personnel decisions) comes out of the Ravens personnel/scouting department.  They own the draft every year, which is central to continued success!

 

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2 minutes ago, Tornacl said:

I'm all for changing the culture, but how do you change the culture of ownership, which is where the losing culture seems to stem from?

I just hope that the next GM (or someone who is central to making personnel decisions) comes out of the Ravens personnel/scouting department.  They own the draft every year, which is central to continued success!

 

Combining your thoughts, anyway you could convince Martha to do all of this?

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57 minutes ago, Leroy Hoard said:

Combining your thoughts, anyway you could convince Martha to do all of this?

I swear there are many people on this board that could do a better job than what the Lions have done.  Maybe they should run the franchise by taking advice from the Shark Pool.  They could be the first "virtual GM."

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Lions announced the Official rookie numbers:

CB Jeff Okudah - 1*
RB De’Andre Swift - 6*
EDGE Julian Okwara - 45
G Jonah Jackson - 73
G Logan Sternberg - 61
WR Quintez Cephus - 87
RB Jason Huntley - 41
DT Jason Pensini - 91
DT Jashon Cornell - 96

*Temporarily assigned; Okudah and Swift will have to change their jersey numbers following the preseason.

Jersey numbers for the undrafted rookies: tight end Hunter Bryant (No. 86), safety Jeremiah Dinson (36), safety Jalen Elliott (42), safety Bobby Price (47), fullback Luke Sellers (47), punter Arryn Siposs (2) and long snapper Steven Wirtel (49).

Virtual rookie mini-camp is this week. 
:oldunsure:

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30 minutes ago, Leroy Hoard said:

Too bad Swift can't keep #6. Would have been a nice tribute to Al Kaline.

I was thinking Okudah could wear Lem Barney’s old # but it’s retired

:P

#23 is open

 

The league has said they won’t allow workouts until all 32 teams are able to open their facilities, so it’s gonna be awhile. Right now OTAs are 2 hours in the classroom and like all OTAs it’s optional. Stafford has been working out with D’Andre Swift and Quintez Cephus because they’re all in the Atlanta area rn.

I haven’t been paying attention to the FFA thread on the NFL but presumably they’ll be playing in front of 20-30K fans in the fall? Gonna be a weird season.

 

 

 

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On 5/13/2020 at 4:41 PM, Leroy Hoard said:

Too bad Swift can't keep #6. Would have been a nice tribute to Al Kaline.

A tribute to Al and everyone would scream “best draft pick ever!” instead of “a good player, but a luxury pick we couldn’t afford.”

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1 minute ago, Snorkelson said:

A tribute to Al and everyone would scream “best draft pick ever!” instead of “a good player, but a luxury pick we couldn’t afford.”

It would have to be a qb to keep the #6. That would be even more of a luxury pick, at least in the short run.

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On 5/13/2020 at 5:41 PM, BobbyLayne said:

#23 is open

not anymore

New Lions (non-rookie)

C. Daniel- 4
G. Davis- 12
G. Allison- 18
D. Trufant- 23
D. Harmon- 26
D. Roberts- 29
J. Kearse- 32
T. McRae- 34
E. Lee- 55
J. Collins- 58
R. Ragland- 59
D. Shelton- 71
H. Vaitai- 72
N. Williams- 97

Which brings about a semi-interesting tidbit.

Numbers available between 20-49:

NONE

Which is why the top two picks (1 Okudah CB & 6 Swift RB) will receive their permanent numbers after cut downs.

21 Walker, Tracy SS

23 Trufant, Desmond CB

24 Oruwariye, Amani CB

25 Harris, Will SS

26 Harmon, Duron FS

27 Coleman, Justin CB

28 Jackson, Michael CB

29 Roberts, Darryl CB

30 Virgin, Dee CB

31 Johnson, Ty RB

32 Kearse, Jayron SS

33 Johnson, Kerryon RB

34 McRae, Tony CB

35 Killebrew, Miles SS

36 Dinson, Jeremiah FS

36 Hills, Wes RB

38 Ford, Mike CB

39 Agnew, Jamal CB

40 Davis, Jarrad ILB

41 Huntley, Jason RB

42 Elliott, Jalen SS

43 Scarbrough, Bo RB

44 Reeves-Maybin, Jalen OLB

45 Okwara, Julian OLB

46 Bawden, Nick FB

47 Price, Bobby SS

47 Sellers, Luke FB

48 Muhlbach, Don LS

49 Moore, CJ FS

49 Wirtel, Steve LS

20 (Barry Sanders), 22 (Bobby Layne) and 37 (Doak Walker) are the only numbers not taken, because they're all retired by the franchise.

 

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Erik Schlitt (LionsWire/USA Today) has been writing about the defense the last 3 days. Will post his article series, starting with the defensive line.

Establishing the 53: Rounding out the Lions' DL

Erik Schlitt 

May 16, 2020 6:30 am ET

It’s never too early to examine and speculate about the Detroit Lions roster. Currently, the Lions have 90-players on their roster, and come September, there will likely be some difficult decisions to make when determining their final 53-players.

Previously, in this series of articles at Lions Wire, we rounded out the running backs group, declared a winner in the fullback versus H-backcompetition, added an offensive weapon, narrowed down the offensive line, and in this piece, we will shift to the other side of the ball and focus on the Lions defensive line — projecting who and how many will make the 53-man roster.

Setting the table

The Lions defensive line primarily operates out of a three-man front, deploying a down defensive end (the DDE lines up on the offensive tackles outside shoulder, but will also shift inside to the 3-technique), a nose tackle (the NT splits time evenly between the 1- and 3-technique) and a defensive tackle (the DT lines up from the 3- to the 5-technique). In this set, the Lions will also line up a pass-rushing JACK linebacker opposite the DDE — for this exercise, the JACK will be discussed further in a linebacker article.

Because this is a hybrid front, the Lions will also operate with four defensive linemen, substituting a back-7 player (linebacker or defensive back) in favor of a big defensive end (BDE). The BDE will line up at the 7- or 9-technique (outside the tight end) in four-man fronts but will also rotate through at DT in three-man fronts.

For a frame of reference, last year the starters at these spots were:

DDE = Trey Flowers

NT = Damon Harrison

DT = A’Shawn Robinson

BDE = Da’Shawn Hand

Identifying starters

Despite losing two starters on the defensive line, the Lions front-four starters for 2020 are clear. Flowers will resume his role at DDE, Hand returns to his role at BDE/DT, while Harrison and Robinson were replaced in free agency by Danny Shelton at NT and Nick Williams at DT.

In three-man sets, expect Hand and Williams to rotate through the DT spot equally, regardless of who technically starts.

Erik’s take: You can write these four names in pen on your depth chart.

DDE reserve battle

After seeing over 53-percent of snaps last season, Romeo Okwara appears destined to resume the reserve DDE once again in 2020.

Jonathan Wynn runs third on the depth chart here but unless an injury happens the odds are against him. Add in the fact that JACK linebacker Austin Bryant can also flex to the DDE position and Wynn’s most optimistic outlook could be the practice squad.

Erik’s take: Okwara in, Wynn to the practice squad.

DT/BDE reserve battle

Last season the Lions kept four players at DT/BDE — Robinson (who has been replaced by Williams), Hand, Mike Daniels (who is still a free agent), and Kevin Strong. One of the reasons the Lions rolled with four players was due to Hand’s injury, but if he is healthy heading into this season, they may elect to keep only three players at this spot.

Strong returns to the roster, and as things sit right now, he appears to be the front runner for the third DT role. His primary competition will be seventh-rounder Jashon Cornell, a converted DE who shined last season at Ohio State after pushing inside to the 3-technique. Frank Herron, who was added to the Lions roster for the final month of the season, rounds out the group but he is staring at an uphill battle.

Erik’s take: Strong gets the nod in this projection, but he’ll be looking over his shoulder at Cornell who is headed to the practice squad. Herron is out.

NT reserve battle

Like at DT, this is another three-person battle between a returner, a draft pick, and a late addition to the roster.

After going undrafted in 2018, John Atkins has seen action each of the last two years, playing in 14 games and starting six down the stretch last season. His primary competition will be sixth-round pick John Penisini who has received a tremendous amount of praise for his upside in this type of NT role. Olive Sagapolu received a futures deal with the Lions last January, but like Herron, he lost his leverage once the Lions drafted a player at his position.

Erik’s take: Penisini is a perfect fit for this role and my gut feeling is he passes Atkins in the final weeks of the preseason, earning a spot on the 53. Atkins could push Strong for a deep reserve role but he’s more than likely headed to the practice squad. Sagapolu is out.

Conclusion

No real big surprises here, and while things can definitely shakeup during camp amongst the reserves, here’s where the depth chart stands in this projection:

• DDE: Flowers, Okwara

• NT: Shelton, Penisini

• DT/BDE: Hand, Williams, Strong

 

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Establishing the 53: breaking down the LB group

Erik Schlitt 

May 18, 2020 6:30 am ET

Setting the table

The Lions don’t use their linebackers like traditional 43 or 34 base players, instead opting to use traits from both schemes and asking their linebackers to be fluid in moving between positions.

In the Lions base defense, they deploy three linebackers on most downs. In the picture below, Jarrad Davis (40) is the MIKE, Christian Jones (52) is the WILL, and Devon Kennard (42) is the JACK.

The MIKE and WILL are off-the-ball players, with the JACK typically living at the line-of-scrimmage. While this is their base set, the Lions will lineup — and pass rush/cover — their linebackers in a variety of ways, as deception is part of the scheme.

For more detailed looks at how the linebackers are used in this scheme, please take a look at my film study: explaining how the Lions LB roles changed in 2019, and how adding Jamie Collins in free agency points to the linebacker positions being positionally fluid moving forward.

Natural JACK LBs

As mentioned in the Collins article, the adding of Collins and releasing of Kennard point to a shift in how the JACK linebacker spot is used. Instead of having a dedicated player at the position, the Lions appear to be leaning towards rotating off-the-ball linebackers and natural JACK linebackers here and in other roles.

In the last two drafts, the Lions have selected two JACK linebackers: Austin Bryant (in the fourth round in 2019) and Julian Okwara (third round in 2020) — both look like strong options for the final 53-man roster.

In addition to JACK, Bryant’s secondary position is as a down defensive end, while Okwara’s secondary position will likely be off-the-ball, with the goal of turning him into the next Jamie Collins. Both players were injured last season — Bryant with the Lions and Okwara at Notre Dame — and it points to them being rotational players in 2020 while they gain experience.

Erik’s take: With high developmental ceilings, both Okwara and Bryant should make the 53 with ease.

Who else can play JACK?

 

Anthony Pittman has also been a player primarily used at JACK, but at 225-pounds it’s hard to feel confident with him holding up there on a regular basis. He has also been cross-trained at the off-the-ball linebacker spots.

In college, both Jamie Collins and Christian Jones were pass-rushing linebackers and while they have transitioned to more off-the-ball roles in the NFL, they are also capable of rotating through the JACK position making them very valuable players in this scheme.

Jahlani Tavai and Reggie Ragland are also capable of rushing off the edge but they’re better suited as at the line-of-scrimmage run stuffers rather than pass rushers.

Jarrad Davis, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Miles Killebrew, Jason Cabinda, Christian Sam, and Elijah Lee are more traditional off-the-ball linebackers and are not considered players who can play at the JACK spot unless they expand their games.

Starter battle

With no dedicated JACK, I am anticipating the Lions to use three off-the-ball linebackers as their base starting unit, with plenty of rotation through all spots. There are four primary contenders for those spots.

Collins — who saw 80.7-percent of snaps in New England last year — was the Lions’ big-ticket free agent this offseason and should be considered a lock for a starting role. His contract backs that up, as it averages ($10 million) nearly triple any other Lions linebacker’s salary. For example, even Collins’ lower cap hit of $6.3 million in 2020 is a stone’s throw away from total cap hits of  Davis, Jones, and Tavai, which equals $7.4 million.

Last year Davis (57.3-percent of snaps) and Jones (53.3-percent) were the technical off-the-ball starters, but Tavai also saw starter levels snaps (52.2-percent). A similar rotation of these three in 2020 wouldn’t be overly surprising.

Erik’s take: Personally I think Tavai makes a leap in 2020 and earns a starting role, next to Collins and Davis, while Jones will come off the bench but still see a starters levels of snaps. 

Reserves LBs vs Special teamers

With Bryant, Okwara, Collins, Tavai, Davis, and Jones securing the top spots, that only leaves one or two spots for a reserve linebacker.

The first player that should be considered is Ragland. His ability to be positionally fluid is a big plus, but he has always been a part-time player in the NFL. With the Chiefs, he saw only 21.3-percent of their defensive snaps in 2019, 49.4-percent in 2018, and 29.3-percent in 2017. His $962,500 cap hit doubles down on the fact that the Lions only see him as a reserve player as well. There is a contingent of Lions fans who would rather see Ragland get a shot over Davis but I don’t believe that to be a realistic option at this stage.

His primary competition is special teams’ demon Reeves-Maybin. He is not nearly as good a fit in the scheme as Ragland, but Reeves-Maybin is among the elite special teams’ players in the league — PFF gave him a 90.0 special teams grade in 2019 — and that will go a very long way with this organization.

Killebrew is even more limited than Reeves-Maybin in what he can do on defense, but he is also among the best special teams players on the roster. It’s also worth noting that his new contract carries a $1.05 million cap hit in 2020, which is slightly higher than both Ragland and Reeves-Maybin ($978,273). Elijah Lee has similar PFF special teams grades to Killebrew and will also be competition for this role.

Like Ragland, Cabinda and Sam are great scheme fits but offer more on special teams. They will need to take big strides in their game to make the 53,  but the practice squad is a likely landing for at least one of them.

Erik’s take: With defensive positions at a premium, reserves need to play multiple roles, including special teams, so give me Reeves-Maybin as my top option in this group. 

Conclusion

With Collins, Tavai, Davis, Jones, and Okwara rotating through three spots, along with Bryant and Reeves-Maybin holding down key roles, the Lions linebacker corps is improved from last season.

Ragland will likely be one of the final cuts, but as long as Davis is on the roster, Ragland will likely get pushed off it. Killebrew will also be a difficult cut, but he is somewhat redundant with safety Jayron Kearse, who seems like a safe bet for the 53. Additionally, expect one or two from the linebacker group to be kept on the practice squad for developmental purposes.

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Establishing the 53: Projecting the Lions' DBs

Erik Schlitt 

May 19, 2020 6:30 am ET

Setting the table

While there are clearly defined starting roles on defense, the defensive backs are grouped together as their positional reserve roles do have some crossover, especially on special teams.

On defense, the Lions deploy five defensive backs in their base set, relying on two outside corners, a JOKER safety, a free safety, with the slot role alternating between a nickel corner or third safety. When they expand to six defensive backs, they typically keep both slot options on the field at the same time. The Lions also have defensive sets that use seven defensive backs in obvious passing situations.

Because of all defensive combinations and the frequency at which they deploy three corners and/or three safeties, it’s important to identify all six players as starters — even if they are not officially identified as such.

Identifying starters at corner

At corner, there has been a two-thirds overhaul among the starters with only Justin Coleman returning. Coleman has the potential to play both inside and out, but he takes roughly 75-percent of his snaps out of the slot.

The Lions were aggressive in landing free agent Desmond Trufant, and after seven years starting for the Falcons, it is assumed he will take a starting role on the outside. Trufant will turn 29-years-old when the season starts and the Lions are likely hoping he can hold down the CB1 role while their top 2020 draft pick acclimates to the league.

Jeff Okudah was drafted third overall for a reason and even general manager Bob Quinn has acknowledged that he is expecting him to start in 2020. Okudah has the talent level to win the CB1 job outright, or make claim to the role by the end of the season.

Erik’s take: Okudah, Trufant, and Coleman are clear Day 1 starters.

CB depth battle

After the trio above, the next notable name at corner is Amani Oruwariye. Oruwariye flashed skills in training camp, showed development throughout the year and should be considered the top reserve option. He is an outside corner only — and that’s probably not changing — but there is a need for a reliable third option at this spot.

Challenging Oruwariye on the outside will be Darryl Roberts — a two-year starter with the Jets — and third-year undrafted corner Mike Ford. Both players have plenty of speed and can contribute on multiple special teams units. Roberts has the experience edge, while Ford has shown the ability to step up when his number was called for the Lions in the past.

The options in the slot are not as strong with special teamers Jamal Agnew and free agent Tony McRae challenging to backup Coleman. The need here isn’t as pressing due to the third safety, but the Lions would benefit from at least one of these players stepping up their ability to play on defense.

Erik’s take: Lock Oruwariye in here based on upside alone, but beyond that, special teams will likely be the deciding factor.

Identifying starters at safety

Tracy Walker’s star is shining brighter with every passing day and he plays one of the most critical spots in the Lions’ scheme: the JOKER safety role. The JOKER is the most flexible player on the field, and Walker will split his time between the box (linebacker level), over the slot (covering tight ends, slot receivers, and running backs), and at deep safety.

Walker is reliable as a deep safety valve, but he can be most impactful when he lines up closer to the line of scrimmage — which is why the Lions traded for Duron Harmon.

Harmon will take over the single-high free safety role and will be the first natural centerfielder the Lions have had since Glover Quin. His experience — and success — in the scheme makes him an instant starter, and his ability to flex between positions will allow him and Walker to disguise coverage intentions.

The battle for the third safety role (the old Tavon Wilson role) will come down to second-year safety Will Harris and free agent acquisition Jayron Kearse.

Harris was drafted in the third round of the 2019 draft with the intention of developing him into this role. Last year he cross-trained at all three safety spots but was noticeably more successful when lining up over the slot and in the box. He should be the front runner for the job, but Kearse’s skill set offers a new range of skills. Kearse is big (6-4, 216), long (34.25″ arm length), and can cover, which will make him very appealing when the Lions want to play matchup football.

Erik’s take: Walker and Harmon are locked in starters, while Harris should get the early nod for the third-safety role based on his scheme experience.

Safety depth battle

Kearse should be an easy addition to the trio above, giving them four players they should feel comfortable putting on the field.

Beyond those four, the group is rounded out with four undrafted players: C.J. Moore in 2019 and three more added this offseason in Jalen Elliott, Jeremiah Dinson, and Bobby Price.

If the Lions keep a fifth safety, which one will likely come down to how they perform on special teams.

Erik’s take: Kearse is in. A fifth safety is still an option. 

Special teams battles

With 11 spots open for defensive backs, we have filled eight of them with four corners and four safeties — leaving three spots remaining.

After being benched in Week 2, Agnew bounced back in a big way, scoring touchdowns on both a punt and kick returns, the only player to do that in the NFL last season. He will be challenged by fifth-round pick, Jason Huntley — who had five kick return touchdowns in college — but Agnew has been a weapon on special teams and, at this time, should be expected to secure a spot on the 53.

That leaves the Lions with two spots remaining — and no gunners.

When the Lions signed McRae, I specifically broke down how that impacted the gunner competition. To summarize my conclusion, McRae’s relationship with new special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs should give him a leg up for one of the gunner roles, leaving Dee Virgin, Moore, and Ford battling it out for the final spot. Roberts — who wasn’t on the roster when I wrote the article — should also be in consideration here. Elliott, Dinson, and Price will also get a shot in camp but until I see them compete in person I can’t consider them options.

Based on the information available to me at this time, the final gunner role will likely come down to Virgin, Moore, Ford, and Roberts. Any of these four could make a push for a spot, but Virgin and Moore — the Lions’ starting gunners last year — lack Roberts and Ford’s ability to contribute on defense, which could be a difference-maker.

Erik’s take: The final three spots go to Agnew, McRae, and Ford for now, but all of their roles are in jeopardy come training camp.

Conclusion

In this projection, the Lions wrap up their defense with 11 players, who will play in the following roles:

• Outside corners: Okudah, Trufant, Oruwariye, Ford

• Nickel/dime corners: Coleman, Agnew, McRae

• Position versatile safeties: Walker, Harmon, Harris, Kearse

• Kick/punt returner: Agnew

• Gunner: McRae, Ford

• 4-phase special teams contributors: Kearse, Harris

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On 5/19/2020 at 3:19 PM, BobbyLayne said:

1. TB

2. KC

3. DAL

4. NO

5. BUF

6. DET

7. LAC

8. CAR

One of these things is not like the others.

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5 hours ago, Leroy Hoard said:

I know Stafford doesn't figure to run a lot, but he still looks like better value than the #13 spot fantasy pros has him at.

If he plays 16 games with those weapons and that suspect defense, I'd be shocked if he wasn't top ten and could easily see him in the top five. The possibility of injury is more of a concern than in years past however. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think the division is the weakest in football wide open for the taking BUT

If I were a Lions fan I'd be totally good with bottoming out and getting rid of Fatty P

...as opposed to going 8-8, finishing one game out of a playoff spot and bringing him back

 

With that said, the roster looks too good to be to truly bottom out if Stafford stays healthy

Edited by KChusker
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  • 2 weeks later...
  • Da Guru changed the title to DETROIT LIONS 2021: Lions Draft: Draft a QB or the best kneecap biter?

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