"Did the Lions improve?" is our latest series analyzing the Detroit Lions' roster in comparison to their 7-9 2015 season. Next up, we look at the defensive ends.
2015 DEs: Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones, Darryl Tapp, Devin Taylor, Larry Webster, Corey Wootton, Phillip Hunt, Kerry Hyder
2016 DEs: Ziggy Ansah, Devin Taylor, Brandon Copeland, Wallace Gilberry, James DeLoach, Deonte Gibson, Anthony Zettel
The Detroit Lions entered the offseason with defensive end being one of the biggest needs on the team. After letting Jason Jones and Darryl Tapp -- who combined for 6.5 sacks last season -- hit free agency, the Lions didn't rush to fill the position. Eventually, as free agency came to close, Detroit grabbed Wallace Gilberry. Many assumed the position would be addressed in the draft, but the Lions waited all the way until sixth round before selecting Penn State's Anthony Zettel.
Did they improve?
The Lions essentially lost their starting defensive end and a backup lineman that played nearly 40 percent of snaps last year. To replace those players, the Lions grabbed Gilberry, who has 3.5 sacks in his past two seasons, and a sixth-round draft pick.
Detroit appears content handing the starting job over to Devin Taylor, who admittedly took a huge step in production last year. But this still seems like a pretty big risk, given Taylor has only started two games in his career. Gilberry provides some depth to fill Tapp's absence, but Detroit is woefully thin at the position. The Lions are so bereft of talent at the position, they decided to move Brandon Copeland from linebacker to defensive end this offseason.
What about compared to 2014?
2014 DEs: Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones, George Johnson, Darryl Tapp, Devin Taylor, Larry Webster
Again, it seems like the Lions had better depth in the past. In 2014, the Lions had George Johnson come off the bench and contribute 6.0 sacks. It's hard to imagine any non-starting defensive end on the Lions' current roster nearing that amount. That being said, we'll have to wait and see if Copeland and Zettel can contribute to their new positions.