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How the Lions can win big on the defensive line this summer

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Moves the Lions can make to vastly improve their defensive line.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at New York Giants Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest reasons the Detroit Lions struggled so much to beat winning teams, or had to make comebacks against others, was the team’s inability to rush the passer. You saw what happened against Green Bay. You also saw it against Seattle and just about every team the Lions played in 2016.

Opposing quarterbacks generally had time to have a cup of coffee and check their emails before passing the ball or scrambling for a first down. This kept the defense on the field forever, allowed touchdowns and made way for losses.

But the Lions actually find themselves in a pretty good post to right the ship for 2017. They have the money and other resources to fix their defensive line this summer. Here's how I propose they do it.

Cut your losses

There are a few players along the line that the Lions are going to have to part ways with. The three that stick out the most are Devin Taylor, Tyrunn Walker and Haloti Ngata. Taylor as shown flashes in the past, notably the end of the 2015 season. But in 2016, he began to trend downward as Kerry Hyder became the Lions’ top choice behind Ezekiel Ansah. Of the three, I think he’s the one they keep, but ultimately I don’t see the breakout coming, and I thought it would happen the last two seasons.

I really liked Tyrunn Walker. I thought he was going to be one of the Lions best free agent signings of the last few years. I think he may have been on the road to that before he badly injured his leg early in 2015. You really saw that take a toll on him in 2016. He seemed to have lost that pass rush ability he had. This led to him even being a healthy inactive against the Jaguars. With Walker about to become an unrestricted free agent, the Lions would be wise to let him walk.

As for Ngata, it’s important to remember that he is no longer the Haloti Ngata that we’re used to seeing. You can tell when you see that Ngata had the worst statistical year of his career in 2016. I like his leadership and his knowledge. I like that he can stop the run. But the fact is he can save the Lions $5.7 million by getting cut. That’s money that can go towards the next portion of this proposal.

Sign Jason Pierre-Paul

I know this is totally out of the ordinary for the Detroit Lions. They rarely, if ever, go out and get the big name free agent. I’ll be the first to tell you that names don’t win games. But what JPP can bring to the table is quite scary for opposing quarterbacks. Imagine a world where JPP is on one side, and Ezekiel Ansah is on the other. Throw in Kerry Hyder and wow!

Yes JPP did have an unfortunate accident with fireworks, but it has not at all affected his play. He still went out and had great year in 2016. He had 53 tackles and 7.0 sacks in 12 games.

The thought here is that he’ll be too expensive, and it’s true. JPP will cost some money to get to Detroit, but the Lions will have the money to spend. Detroit will have an estimated $43 million and change per Spotrac, and that number is going to rise with cuts and the NFL’s annual cap rise, which is expected to rise up to $165 million. So why not spend that money on a player that can help you win games? The real question is whether or not JPP decides to leave New York.

Replacing Haloti/Suh

The Lions are going to need to replace Haloti Ngata and still find a way to fix the hole that Ndamukong Suh left behind when he chose to live in the sunshine of Miami as opposed to Detroit. I have two replacements in mind. One from the draft and one from free agency.

From the free agency side of things, I suggest Jaguars Tyson Alualu. There will be either one of two reactions here: “Who?” or “He’s a bust.” But Alualu is far from a bust. In fact, he’s a player that has shown much improvement over the past few years. He’s able to stop the run, and is also fast enough to play defensive end.

In fact, he has played defensive end in the NFL. He’s played just about everywhere on the defensive line. He’s even played fullback on offense. He’s a utility player that the Lions can use. Not to mention, he’s likely to be pretty cheap.

In the draft, as much as I’d like to see the Lions draft a player named Taco, I don’t think he’ll be there for the Lions. So I say they head a couple hours away and pick up Malik McDowell from Michigan State. McDowell is a guy that flat out get after the quarterback. He has the speed to rush the pass, and the body to stop the run. The issue, or issues, are will he be there for the Lions at 21? SB Nation’s draft guru Dan Kadar actually has McDowell landing in Detroit in his latest mock draft. But his ankle injury remains a big question mark and could even cause him to miss some games in 2016.

A’Shawn “Baracus” Robinson

Besides trying to convince A’Shawn to grow a Mohawk this summer, the Lions should really be thinking about how A’Shawn will take over the starting role at defensive tackle. I, for one, think he’s ready.

He only had five starts in 2016, but in those five starts he showed what he could do, especially against the pass. You saw Robinson jump up and swat a lot of passes this season. He did that seven times, to be exact. That’s just about half of Darius Slay’s 13 pass deflections.

Robinson also notched two sacks and 22 tackles in his rookie year. That’s not too bad for a kid that didn’t get as much playing time as he probably should have. Going into 2017, that’ll be sure to change. The interior of this defensive line now belongs to A’Shawn Robinson. Let’s see what he can do.

What do you think Lions fans? what would you do different? Be sure to leave your comments below.