In preparation for the start of the 2015 regular season, our writers and editors predicted how the Detroit Lions will look this year. Make your own predictions by voting in the poll at the bottom of this post.
Next up: Who will be the Lions' defensive MVP?
Alex Reno: Stephen Tulloch
Yikes, this is a tough one. Can I pick five players for this category? If not, give me Stephen Tulloch. Many were quick to cast Tulloch aside after the defense didn't skip a beat following his injury, but I think we're truly underestimating how spectacular of a season he was having before that injury. Don't forget that he is a true leader and one of the most efficient tacklers in the game. Also, with Tulloch at the heart of our defense, this allows Tahir Whitehead to be the SAM linebacker, which I believe is his best position and a much more natural fit for him. This linebacker group is scary good.
Joseph Buszek: Darius Slay
Choosing DeAndre Levy seemed too easy here and perhaps I’m just being optimistic, but I feel this is the year that Slay will move himself into the conversation of top five corners in the league.
Chris Tomke: Ezekiel Ansah
This is admittedly more of an "in an ideal world" pick. Unless Teryl Austin plans on blitzing every down, the pass rush has to come from somewhere, right? Ansah’s always been stout against the run, and he flashed a bit more as a pass-rusher during his second season. If he manages to make "the leap" this year, it’d go a long way toward mitigating the losses on the defensive line.
Ryan Mathews: Stephen Tulloch
The Lions’ defensive MVP this year will be none other than the man who had to spend the majority of the 2014 season watching games from the sideline, Stephen Tulloch. The role of defensive anchor that DeAndre Levy played for the Lions last season was the one Tulloch’s played since he arrived in Detroit in 2011. All signs point to the veteran linebacker being healthy, hungry, and ready to make his impact felt in a big way this season.
Kyle Yost: DeAndre Levy
While the Lions defense might not be quite as dominant as it was last year, there are a number of strong defenders that should help the unit continue to be one of the best in the NFL. I think that Haloti Ngata, Glover Quin, and Darius Slay will all have solid performances, but DeAndre Levy needs to be "the guy." The media may not give Levy all of the respect he deserves, but he has been nothing short of spectacular. With all of the changes on the defensive line, Levy's role becomes even more important, and he is poised to be the defensive anchor in 2015.
Drew Erickson: Darius Slay
Probably no position group in the NFL exudes more confidence than cornerbacks, and Slay certainly fits the bill in that regard. He also backs it up on the field. A clean bill of health allowed him to play 97% of defensive snaps last season, in addition to finishing with the 16th best grade of all corners last season according to Pro Football Focus. As well as shutting down opposing receivers, he also had a top 20 finish among corners in run stop percentage. With tutelage from Teryl Austin and veteran Rashean Mathis, Slay took an enormous leap after a rough rookie year and is poised to join the elite group of corners in the league in his third season. In a defense that has probably six or seven guys that could be the MVP of the unit, I think Slay becomes that guy this year.
Christopher Lemieux: Glover Quin
Justin Simon: Darius Slay
Big. Play. Slay. Get ready for a breakout year from the third year corner. I expect his playmaking to increase this year, and without Suh anchoring the defense, the Lions will need a big year from Slay in the secondary.
Jeremy Reisman: Darius Slay
Though my heart lies with DeAndre Levy, I think this is the year that the Lions show a marked improvement in the pass defending department. They will be led by Slay, who will finish in the top five in the league in interceptions by the season's end.
Brian Packey: DeAndre Levy
With Ndamukong Suh gone and the defensive line undoubtedly weaker, this is truly Levy's defense to lead.