We all know the Detroit Lions offense will live and die with Matthew Stafford, but perhaps the key to success in 2018 will be the other side of the ball. If the defense continues to flail, Stafford will only be able to take them so far. If Matt Patricia can work his magic, suddenly this team’s ceiling will be much higher.
But which player will lead this defensive group. Who will come out as the defensive player of the year in 2018? We asked that question to all of our staff. These are their answers.
Who will be the Lions’ defensive player of the year in 2018?
I think most people will go with Darius Slay here, and they won’t be wrong. Slay is easily one of the top two or three corners in the league. But for me, this defense is all going to roll through the veteran leadership of Glover Quin.
Darius Slay. Finger wags will be had, things will be intercepted. Life goes on.
Darius Slay. There aren’t as many candidates for Lions Defensive MVP as I’d like there to be. Slay is far and away the most valuable player on this defense and his presence in the secondary makes up for the many weaknesses Detroit has elsewhere. He went toe-to-toe with some of the best in the business last season and there is no reason to believe he won’t be just as good again in 2018. The 2017 first-team All Pro is one of the best corners in the NFL and is one of the lone things to look forward to on out defense this season.
The phrase “most valuable player” and “Lions defense” do not belong next to one another, but I have to pick someone. Nobody should throw in Darius Slay’s direction, which makes him uber-valuable as he shuts down his side of the field. Glover Quin will patrol the back end of this defense in a way few other safeties in the league can, but if I’m an opposing team, I’m picking on the rest of the secondary for four straight quarters. But the Lions might have a player who can make it difficult for visiting quarterbacks to get those throws off.
If there was anything encouraging about the defense this preseason, it was Devon Kennard’s presence on the edge. He was the Lions most efficient pass rusher, and looks like he will have more opportunities and responsibilities here in Detroit than he had in New York with the Giants. Because his impact will be more quantifiable and potentially more realized down after down, Kennard has the opportunity to be Detroit’s most valuable defender in 2018.
I wanted to be bold and say someone like Quandre Diggs (I think he’ll have a good year at safety) or Devon Kennard. In the end, Slay is the cornerstone of this secondary, and on a defense lacking playmakers, Slay has been the lockdown corner they’ve needed. I don’t expect him to reach eight interceptions again this year, but that’s because teams will shy away from his direction (if they’re smart) and target someone like Nevin Lawson or Teez Tabor instead.
Ezekiel Ansah. If there’s anyone who has flown under the radar this preseason, it’s oddly been one of the Lions’ best defensive players over the past four years, Ziggy. Yes, there are injury concerns. Yes, it appears his effectiveness may have worn off a little. Yes, he’s entering a new defensive system. But I think Ziggy has plenty left in the tank, and for a team desperate for pass rush, Matt Patricia is going to find every possible way to put Ansah in a position where he’s going to get to the passer. 10 sacks at a very minimum.
If the Lions have any hope on defense this year, they need Ezekiel Ansah to be MVP. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening. I’ll give it to Darius Slay. He has a chance to be the best cornerback in the NFL. He is a player on the rise and one if the true blue chip players the Lions have on the roster.
Glover Quin has always been a top-tier performer at safety, even if he did so quietly. Last year that was especially the case as Darius Slay set a career high in interceptions, which meant Quin’s highlights were largely limited to consistent tackling, passes defended, and blanket coverage.
Teryl Austin’s defensive philosophy relied on the secondary keeping everything in front of them, and Glover Quin was the key to making that work with his stellar play at free safety. With Matt Patricia’s bend-but-don’t-break style of defense, Quin will play just as pivotal a role, and, much like last year, it may not show up on the stat sheet but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked.
Boasting an outrageous 2017, cornerback Darius Slay led the league in interceptions (eight) and passes defended (26) in a season where he made his first All Pro and Pro Bowl teams. This is also a season where he went up against some of the NFL’s top receivers, like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, A.J. Green and more. Big Play Slay is ripe for another knockout season. He’s a physical player with the ability to disrupt the opposing teams’ top receivers who spent the offseason training with skilled defensive backs like Richard Sherman, Xavier Rhodes, Aqib Talib and Ahkello Witherspoon. He’s ready for 2018.
Kent Lee Platte
It’s going to be Darius Slay. It won’t be close. It’s going to be ugly. I hate to pick an obvious player here, but the Lions defense appears so bereft of talent that it really only comes down to one of three players. It’s either Slay, Glover Quin in his 30s, or the oft-injured Ezekiel Ansah. Easy choice for me. I expect this to look like a step back season for Slay as he’s forced to cover for longer than he’s used to, but he’ll still be the top player on this defense by a hot mile.
I‘m going to give you two answers for this. Again, it’s tough to stray away from an obvious pick in Darius Slay. He’s easily a top 10 corner and consistently shows us why. Although he’s not the guy wearing the power helmet, he is, and will continue to be, one of the strongest weapons the Lions have, especially when it comes to defending the pass. That aspect of his game will be huge when when playing against Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and an up-and-coming Mitchell Trubisky.
However, I’d also love to see Ziggy get this honor. I hate to bring it back to the financial aspect of professional sports, but when you pay a single player $17+ million, you expect to see big results. Ansah is a fan favorite—who doesn’t love him?! I think we’d all love to see him get double-digit sacks, finally prove he can stay healthy and be the defensive monster we all hoped.
Darius Slay. Here is the exact paragraph I wrote last season: “With weakness up front yet again, the Lions will struggle to put up any sort of pass rush. The more that Darius Slay can do to lock up a team’s best weapon, the less weight will fall on the rest of the defense. Slay still does not get the top-end recognition that other elite corners receive nationally, but a lockdown season could help continue to grow his name.”
It would be great if someone comes close to Slay for this award... provided Slay continues to play at his Pro Bowl level... which he will. Sadly, the odds of someone being as good as Big Play Slay are not likely. Perhaps a resurgence from Ziggy? Quin somehow has his best year after 30? Dream on. We are counting on those two to likely be top guys on this unit but Slay will be the top guy by a considerable amount.
Who will be the Lions’ defensive player of the year?
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