As we start to look ahead to training camp, we're going to take a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions roster. Next up is the defensive tackle position. (The final year of each player's contract is listed in parentheses.)
Set starters: Haloti Ngata (2017), Tyrunn Walker (2016)
Backups: A’Shawn Robinson (2019), Caraun Reid (2017)
On the bubble: Stefan Charles (2016), Gabe Wright (2018), Khyri Thornton (2016)
Long shot: Kerry Hyder (2016), Louis Palmer (2018)
The Lions will enter the 2016 season with the same starting defensive tackles they had in 2015. However, Detroit added a ton of depth this offseason, and it’s going to result in quite the training camp battle.
Most notable was their acquisition of Alabama standout A’Shawn Robinson in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Robinson won’t earn a starting job right away, but the Lions will expect Robinson to be part of the team’s heavy rotation. Robinson had a first-round grade by many draft analysts, so the Lions won’t waste time putting that talent on the field.
In free agency, the Lions also added former Buffalo Bill Stefan Charles. Charles is only in his fourth NFL season and the Bills general manager believes he has "tremendous upside." However, he’ll have to compete with Caraun Reid for playing time. Reid has been a quiet, but essential part of the Lions rotation in the past two years. The former fifth-round pick racked up 29 tackles and 2.0 sacks in 14 games of action last season.
Perhaps the most interesting story among this group of players is the future of second-year tackle Gabe Wright. Drafted in the fourth round in 2015, Wright was expected to contribute somewhat significantly in his rookie year, but despite being relatively healthy all season, Wright only appeared in seven games. With such a crowded depth chart, releasing Wright just one year after being drafted has become a very realistic scenario.
Need going forward?
The Lions are loaded at the defensive tackle position this year. However, that may not be the case in the near future. Though Ngata signed a two-year deal this offseason, he turned 32 this year and may not be considered a starter much longer. The other Lions starter, Tyrunn Walker, is only signed through this upcoming season. While A’Shawn Robinson will be expected to take over starting duties sooner rather than later, the Lions will have to figure out their other defensive tackle for the future. That thought-process may be enough to keep a guy like Wright around, especially if he has shown a lot of improvement from his rookie year.