Taking a hard look at the roster

like many here i was disappointed we didn’t take an impact defensive lineman higher in the draft. i was really hoping for blacklock in the 2nd. after it was all said and done i went back and took a good hard look at the current roster. as i started to move the pieces around to see where everyone fit and where the pass rush could come from i saw something interesting. if you look at our current defense as it was last year it’s a collection of solid players and no superstars…yet. however, if you start rearranging the pieces and shift detroit’s defense into a 3-4 look it suddenly gets very interesting. the lions have a ton of interchangable players to create a nightmare for opposing teams out of this look.

a base set could look something like this

end-flowers and hand
nt- shelton

outside backers- okwara, bryant, collins or possibly davis
inside backers-tavai, davis, collins, ragland

this is where it gets interesting. hand can play inside and out. so can flowers and williams. shelton and penisini will man the nose. okwara and bryant have the athletic ability to stand up or put their hand in the ground. bryant would have to be protected by scheme if he drops into coverage but okwara has the athletic ability to be a solid coverage backer. if not you can have collins on the outside possibly with davis making a move out there. especially since he’s better rushing than he is in coverage. that would leave tavai and ragland inside to be your downhill thumpers. which is what they do best. it would also make the majority of our linebackers interchangable. davis and collins have to ability to play inside and out. tavai has the size and athletic ability to move outside and rush the passer. or even put his hand on the ground ala mike vrable. this may be our best option for a solid defense and i’ll be interested to see what patricia does with it. at the very least we’re going to have roughly 8 new defensive starters. so we should see an improvement over last season.

if we stay healthy there’s no reason for detroit to have anything less than a top 10 offense in the league. if our defense is even average we should be a playoff contender. the packers haven’t done anything to improve their passing game. and it actually looks like they plan to play right into the lions strength. please take the ball out of aaron rodgers hands and run aj dillion into our huge linebackers all day. i beg you. as for minnesota, they lost a ton of quality players off their defense. i know the draft class was hyped and it was good, but they’re still rookies and most will need time to develop. chicago’s defense wasn’t the same without fangio at the helm. it’s still a very good unit but they don’t have much of an offense to compliment it. they’re especially weak along the offensive line. all in all i think this year is setting up nicely for the lions to win their first division title since 91.

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Great first post. Well said.

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The secondary looks solid to me, most rookie CBs have their growing pains but it could be that Okudah is the exception. Trufant will do okay I think at the other corner and adding Harmon I think gives them more flexibility to do a lot of things. Plus I believe Oruwariye is a decent backup. But the big thing is getting pressure on the QB to get that ball outta there, you just can’t let them sit back there all day going through their progressions.

Which I think is where the new DC comes in, will he get creative and mix things up to bring different numbers of guys from different directions and confuse the enemy? And if the Offense can stay on the field longer and put up more points then the Defense won’t be as gassed in the 4th qtr as they were sometimes in 2019. Just have to hope like hell that these guys start the 2020 season in better shape than they did last year.

I can see the Lions Offense being very good if Stafford can stay healthy. Chase Daniel is a decent backup though, so that’s good. It could be that Quinn’s efforts to upgrade the running game could finally show some results; I really like Swift and KeJo and I really like Bo Scarbrough coming in an running over people in the 4th qtr. If only!

Could be that the Lions finally win the North, but some things have to go right. Injuries and such. Plus not getting screwed by the refs would be nice. To me, this is the time for Patricia to prove he’s got what it takes, if the Lions are not in the hunt for the division and a playoff spot over the last 2 games then i think he has to go.

PS: nice job, najacks

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i’m not worried about the secondary. that’s why i left it out. i figured my post was long enough as it was.

it’s interesting to me that people are so sure that patricia is going to be a failure as a coach and get fired after this season. he may very well be. but consider that the lions went toe to toe with the best teams in the nfl when they were healthy. even later in the year the lions led several games into the 4th quarter. almost beating the bears and packers with the trainwreck going on at the qb position. outside of one vikings game detroit was within one score of winning or tying every single other game. that takes coaching. especially with all the injuries the team had.

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i’d also say that it’s not a lock that okudah starts from week one. he’s a great talent to be sure. he’ll absolutely play. but oruwariye has the size and length patricia covets in his corners. he was also starting to play pretty well at the end of the season. we’ll see how much more he develops this offseason. with a veteran like trufant on the other side there could be no need to rush okudah into the lineup if he isn’t ready. or a better option than oruwariye. give him a season to get his feet wet and then he replaces trufant next season. even slay wasn’t slay his rookie year.

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Welcome to contributing @najcks… you are presenting a somewhat reasonable scenario… something that has been lacking here. You do couch your expectations, which is wise… you’re probably a somewhat long time fan. Some posters here prefer to be doomsday every day when it comes to the Lions… history would suggest that that’s a reasonable perspective. Many people have faced tougher circumstances in real life before sports as we know it. I’m kinda in the middle. I have doubts, but hope burns eternal…

None the less, I think your post is pretty reasonable. Thing is… most of us are at a point where we need to see it to believe it… not a bad perspective considering the Lions history. I prefer to be optimistic, and realistic… and avoid the doomsday perspective, well because I love the Lions… I wa t the best for the team as fast as possible… better the … I’m hoping the front office and coaching staff is getting to the point of finalizing their plans to get us where we all (or at least most; some will never get there even if the Lions win a SB)… keep in mind there are a few trolls here that would HATE if that happened because it would mean they were wrong. (Mods, did you like how I worded that?)

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Welcome back najcks, been quite a while.

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i’ve been watching football for almost 40 years. been rooting for the lions for most of that. because of that i am at the same point as you. i need to see it to believe it. that being said, for the first time since i’ve started rooting for the lions there seems to be a clear plan from the front office on down. that’s been the lions main problem the entire time the ford family has owned the lions. if you look at the winning franchises in the league they all have the same things in common. they have a clear plan for what they want for their team from the owner all the way down. in the history of the nfl the same pattern has emerged over and over again. with a few outliers here and there the teams that have had sustained success have all been able to run the football and play defense. it seems to me that patricia and quinn are steering the lions toward that philosophy. it’s not pretty football but it’ll win you a lot of games. i really hope this is finally the plan.

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Hopefully with the additional talent and Tavai hitting his 2nd year, Davis can play a little more of his own game and not try to do too much. I think his only value is off the ball as one of the inside LBs, so he’s going to have to improve in coverage and getting around Guards if he’s going to contribute in a meaningful way.

Good to see you here!

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I straight up love this comment. It feels right and accurate to me.

I believe this club finally has all the horses pulling in the same direction. I am bummed that we let DT Robinson and Glasgow walk. I really liked that 2016 draft. But I also get why they were allowed to walk. There is a vision in place now and between scheme, cap hit and so on a change has been made. The 2017 draft was horrible outside Kenny. I like Jarrad Davis but he is still a mystery and that isn’t what you want out of a 1st rd. pick going into year 4. Tabor was a disaster, Michael Roberts cost us games but we also drafted Kenny Golladay and that dwarfs the rest of that draft.

That lack of vision in 2016 and 2017 landed hard in 2019. 2019 drove me NUTS. But I now also like what I see happening too.

But by 2018 Quinn found his footing. All six of his draft picks are still on the roster. Kerryon Johnson and Hand have had injury issues but are important pieces moving forward. Both guys have flashed serious talent at times but injuries have been a sense of frustration. The 2019 draft should pay out now as those were players at positions where rookies often struggle (TE, LBer and safety…the top 3 picks for the Lions that draft). DE Austin Bryant took a red shirt season but he is talented and could play a bigger role than many think in 2020. The top 5 picks in the 2019 draft all look to plat significant roles in 2020.

Then we have the 2020 draft…targeted to a T. Okudah perfectly fits as a cover CB here. Swift plugs in as a runner who fits this offense and adds depth to the running game but he is also a fine pass catcher too. Okwara is my favorite pick in terms of ability and draft position. Our Anthony Barr hopefully (a guy the Lions made a pitch for in 2019 I believe). Guard Jonah Jackson is a polished rookie guard set to replace Graham (part of the Slay deal) and then we will see of the other guys stick. Logan with additional guard depth is nice (Dahl insurance). WR Quintex Cephis seems to fit a vision of a bigger WR this club seems to covet. Look at the WRs drafted late in 2019 with Travis Fulgham and then Chris Lacy sticking (6’3" and 206 pound area). Free agent Geronimo Allison also fits this vision.

Then look at BIG ROT Vatai. It is clear this OC and OL coach want to stick the football down the throat of defenses and they didn’t care for Ricky Wagner or Glasgow (at least not at that price). Vatai is MUCH bigger than Wagner and Jonah Jackson seems hand picked from their time at the Senior Bowl.

As much as 2019 pissed me off I agree that there sure as hell seems to be a plan in place if one cares to look. And while folks have marked many of the free agents added as a negative due to them coming from Patriots land…many of these same guys are poised to play specific and critical roles here.

Danny Shelton is slated to play the role that Harrison turned his nose up at. Jamie Collins is that wild card LBer we need and Okwara is a perfect understudy there. Duron Harmon is the perfect defensive leader we need to get the secondary on the same page, lined up correctly. Our Glover Quin. That was a necessary move to help develop Tracy Walker and Will Harris. I expect a LOT of 3 safety looks in 2020.

I get why pundits and others are down on this off-season. With a casual look it can seem desperate. With their backs against the wall the Lions choose players they know. Coaches do that all the time and it smells desperate. But on further inspection Harmon is 29 and is a free agent after this season. If we like him as can lock him down. DT Danny Shelton is 27 in August and his experience here is valuable. His contract is perfect for a run stuffer with upside. Jamie Collins represents a bigger risk due to age and his failure to live up to expectations in Cleveland.

Last point…past draft visions, scheme consistency, contracts and such I think another mark of a solid off-season is having under-the-radar moves. Moves that at the time seemed minor. I think the Lions have a small handful of moves like that including:

  1. Safety Jayron Kearse. 26 years old, 6’4" and 215+ pounds…he isn’t coming here on a one year deal looking to only play special teams. 24 year old Will Harris is officially on notice. Jayron is here to steal his spot and I LOVE that.

  2. 30 year old Nick Williams. A 2 year deal worth up to $10 million. This deal has been looked at but Nick represents a guy without a lot of wear and tear overall and can play well without having to have a ton of snaps. He takes Mike Daniels spot. Nick is a late bloomer…didn’t start playing football until his senior year of high school.

  3. Guard Josh Garnett. This kid can play period. But injuries derailed his time in San Fran and he took all of 2019 off. Josh is 26 years old and Joe Dahl is one year older. I can see Josh putting up a hell of a fight. In fact…I can also see Dahl losing that fight but still making the roster. I am not writing off Dahl at all. Sternberg is nice to have as a high end developmental guy. Logan will make the roster but I don’t see him starting.

I see a vision playing out…but it is time for wins now.

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I feel like the difference between Trufant and Slay will become noticeable right away, and it is going to be a bad thing. To me, the key to the defense is Collins. How are they planning to use him in a way that is effective? The LB coverage last year was brutal. Teams took advantage of it time and time again–so, so many 3rd-down conversions were given up by poor LB coverage. Does Collins help there? If they can tighten that up, maybe things look better.

Of course, the nagging question of, “Who in the world gets pressure on the QB to force bad throws?” remains.

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Injuries with be the key! Also, how much of an impact will the new D coordinator make? He may not actually be the D coordinator. It could be Patricia calling the D. This is a critical year for the team in particular Patricia. Also you are counting on Collins (age 31) for example to be the player he was in New England last year. Well, we’ve seen the script before in Snacks. The drop off in production was massive. You’re expecting Okudah to be a pro bowl caliber player as well (i just don’t see it). Trufant has miss several games these past seasons. There’s still too many unknowns as much as I want to believe.

Don’t sleep on Foles. I know Chicago isn’t Philly, but, those other teams didn’t turn around after he left. Foles isn’t there to be the backup. Tribisky is not a starter.

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Same thing 50 years.

I agree with you about Garnett. If one player is going to surprise and be a big time contributor he’s my pick. He was an absolute boss in the run game while at Stanford. Pass sets might be a bit of an adventure though. If he does make the team and starts you’d think he’d be on the right side and he and Vaitai in combination could be problematic in pass pro.

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GreggyJ…2019 Slay was bad here:
" Slay had an all-around bad year in 2019, one that was somewhat uncharacteristic for the eighth-year cornerback. In every season from 2014 to 2018, Slay produced a PFF coverage grade above 70.0, ranking among the 20 best corners in the NFL in four of those five seasons. In 2019, he managed a coverage grade of just 56.9, which ranked 92nd in the NFL and was barely better than his 2013 rookie season. It’s understandable why Detroit might be hesitant to hand out a fat contract to Slay after that poor season, but we shouldn’t let recency bias make us assume that Slay’s 2019 is his new norm."

That article was written in February. Before we actually traded Slay and signed Trufant. Concerning Trufant:
“Their top corner, Desmond Trufant, finished 32nd in the league among all cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) with a coverage grade of 70.3. Trufant finished the year with 18 tackles, 13 solo, a tackle for a loss and a career-high four interceptions in nine games. He battled a forearm and turf toe injuries during the year. It was the fewest number of games he’s played in a season since 2016.”

So Trufant’s worst season was better than Slay’s worst seasons outside Slay as a rookie. In 2018 Slay was really good…coming in 6th on this list (Trufant was 23rd):

Trufant was really good defending the deep ball in 2018 though and at allowing low yards per catch (but he also allowed a higher % of completions than we would like too):


“The numbers here reflect what we saw on tape from Trufant this year. While he’s still good at not allowing separation (opponents averaged just 2.3 yards), Trufant gave up far too many catches, allowing a 59.3 percent catch rate and and a 88.5 passer rating.”

I believe Trufant ran, not walked away from the Falcons and I think he is excited to be a part of this scheme. The Falcons have been a hot mess on defense for years under Quinn. Dan Quinn has taken play calling duties away from his DC’s, fired DCs, took control himself and all the while their entire defense underperformed. Their pass rush has been terrible, players didn’t develop and scheme seems to be confusing to the players:

Nope, I don’t think Trufant is as good as Slay. Desmond just isn’t as physically gifted. BUT…I think Trufant found a system that will allow him to do what he does well and to just play the game. We field a secondary that should be better than Atlanta and if we can gin up pressure there is a real chance that Trufant can have a very solid 2020 here.

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That right there is the number #1 issue IMHO relative to the Lions success this year, other than Stafford’s back. Sounds like he’s good to go though, and I do believe he’s going to be handing the ball off more often, thereby reducing his risk of injuring himself again. Hard to believe the guy still doesn’t know how to slide, or maybe it’s just the warrior in him.

A better pass rush is going to help EVERYBODY.

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The falcons CUT trufant. They no longer wanted him

For certain. As the OP points out, they do have more front 7 pieces than they’ve had since Patricia arrived. Some guys that can do more than one thing.

Here’s another key: stopping the run. Can Shelton be a solid 2 down run stuffer? Seems there’s a good chance of that. He’s got to be more reliable than 2019 Snacks was. Put the opponent in 3rd and long and then you’ve got yourself a set-up and the personnel now that can take advantage of it.

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