Our roster review of the 2017 Detroit Lions continues with one of the most underwhelming players of the season. 2016 fourth-round pick Miles Killebrew was expected to take a big jump last year, but, instead, found his role steadily decrease as the season went on. Let’s take a look at what is in Killebrew’s future.
Expectations for 2017
Killebrew was expected to compete with Tavon Wilson for the starting strong safety role in 2017. Back in July, here’s what we wrote about Killebrew’s chances:
While Killebrew isn’t likely to take Wilson’s job right away, there’s no doubt the Lions will use him in a very significant role this year. How Killebrew plays in training camp and the preseason may determine just how big that role will be in 2017.
The Lions employed a lot of three-safety looks in 2016, so the belief was, at the very least, Killebrew would take over Rafael Bush’s role and see a significant portion of snaps (around 40 percent or so).
Actual role in 2017
2017 stats: 16 games (3 starts): 38 tackles, 5 passes defended, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 TD
PFF grade: 59.2 (67th of 87 safeties)
The 2017 season began as expected. Wilson was the starter, and Killebrew was seeing pretty significant playing time. In the season debut, Killebrew sealed the victory with a pick-six.
However, as the season progressed, the Lions slowly phased Killebrew out of the game plan. Out of the bye week, Wilson was playing nearly every down, while Killebrew was limited to about 25 percent of snaps.
It only got worse from there. Down the stretch, the Lions hardly used Killebrew at all. When Wilson went down with a serious injury, the Lions opted to move Quandre Diggs to safety rather than playing Killebrew. Miles would only play a total of 23 snaps in the final five games, including none in the season finale.
Detroit’s surprising decision to use Diggs over Killebrew may have paid off for the team, but it was a horrible sign for Killebrew’s development.
Outlook for 2018
Contract status: Signed through 2019
It’s hard to know what the future holds for Killebrew considering the coaching overhaul, but 2017 was clearly a step back for the once-promising prospect. What seemed like a hot start to the year quickly turned into a huge disappointment.
The fact that when Tavon Wilson went down with an injury the Lions could not trust Killebrew to play safety and instead hoped Diggs would adjust to a new position speaks volumes to Killebrew’s development. Keep in mind that this was during a playoff run for the team, and the Lions opted to take a huge risk rather than play Killebrew.
That being said, 2018 could provide a redemption story for Killebrew. Wilson is set to become a free agent, leaving a path for Miles to possibly claim a starting role with the defense. But can the Lions trust Killebrew, or did they like what they saw out of Diggs at the position?
This is part of the reason the Lions brought in a guy like Matt Patricia. He has taken castoffs (see: Kyle Van Noy) and turned them into highly productive players. He knows how to find a player’s strengths and utilize them to the best of the team’s ability. There’s little doubt that Killebrew has talent—we’ve seen flashes of it before—now it’ll be up to Patricia to see if he can get the most out of it. Otherwise, Killebrew may not make it much longer in Detroit.
What will Miles Killebrew’s role be in 2018?
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