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Detroit Lions 2018 season snap counts: Defense stayed healthy... except for 1 guy

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The Detroit Lions defense saw almost all of their starters stay healthy for the season. Well, except that one guy.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, we looked at the snap counts from the 2018 Detroit Lions on the offensive side of the ball. Now it’s time to look at the defense, which steadily improved as the season went on. Still, there were plenty of problems with the defense this year, so let’s see if the personnel decisions had anything to do with it.

Here are the Detroit Lions 2018 snaps counts on defense.

Defensive tackles

Da’Shawn Hand: 455 (46.2%)
A’Shawn Robinson: 415 (42.1%)
Ricky Jean Francois: 405 (41.1%)
Damon Harrison: 357 (36.2%)
John Atkins: 40 (4.1%)

Analysis: The Lions had a very healthy rotation of four different interior defenders. Rookie Da’Shawn Hand finished the season with the most snaps, which is an extremely promising fact for the talented defensive lineman’s future, especially considering he missed the last three games due to an injury.

Damon Harrison obviously would’ve topped this list had he spent the entire season with the Lions. In total, Harrison played a total of 606 snaps on the season... in 17 regular season appearances.

And considering A’Shawn Robinson started the year as a healthy scratch, to see him grow to become an essential part of the interior rotation should bring hope.

Defensive ends

Romeo Okwara: 716 (72.7%)
Eli Harold: 185 (18.8%)
Kerry Hyder: 153 (15.5%)
Ezekiel Ansah: 146 (14.8%)
Eric Lee: 97 (9.9%)
Mitchell Loewen: 4 (0.4%)

Analysis: Here we can see exactly why the Detroit Lions defense failed to create pressure. They were forced to rely heavily on Romeo Okwara—a waiver wire pickup in early September. The injury to Ezekiel Ansah undoubtedly devastated this group, and Detroit didn’t trust any of their depth outside of Okwara to line up on the right edge.

To be fair, the Lions created pressure on the other edge using Devon Kennard—under linebackers here—but it’s clear Detroit could use a couple bodies here to both add more talent and keep Okwara more fresh in 2019, should he return.

Linebackers

Jarrad Davis: 976 (99.1%)
Devon Kennard: 864 (87.7%)
Christian Jones: 644 (65.4%)
Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 111 (11.3%)
Nicholas Grigsby: 28 (2.8%)
Kelvin Sheppard: 11 (1.1%)
Trevor Bates: 4 (0.4%)

Analysis: Jarrad Davis missed just nine total snaps all year, playing in 100 percent of snaps in 14 of 16 games.

The Lions actually managed to stay very healthy with this group. Their three top linebackers took all but 154 snaps for the entire season. Free agent addition Christian Jones proved to be an important part of the linebacking corps, while youngster Jalen Reeves-Maybin didn’t take the step many were hoping him to in 2018.

Cornerbacks

Nevin Lawson: 877 (89.0%)
Darius Slay: 875 (88.8%)
Mike Ford: 316 (32.1%)
Teez Tabor: 276 (28.0%)
DeShawn Shead: 248 (25.2%)
Jamal Agnew: 117 (11.9%)
Marcus Cooper: 39 (4.0%)
Cre’Von LeBlanc: 29 (2.9%)

Analysis: Again, the Lions were able to rely on their top two cornerbacks for the majority of the season, speaking to Detroit’s fortunate health situation on defense—excluding Ezekiel Ansah, of course.

But the problem with this unit came when trying to find that third guy. Sometimes Quandre Diggs would play in the box. Sometimes Nevin Lawson would play inside and Detroit would try to rely on a different outside corner. Regardless, the Lions just couldn’t find that extra defensive back they could reliably play. Mike Ford, Teez Tabor and DeShawn Shead were all picked on at various points of the season and proceeded to each get benched.

Safety

Quandre Diggs: 948 (96.2%)
Glover Quin: 829 (84.2%)
Tavon Wilson: 304 (30.9%)
Tracy Walker: 211 (21.4%)

Quandre Diggs was the Lions’ do-all safety, and the Lions treated him that way. He was second on the team in defensive snaps and seemed to really make them count.

Though it felt like the Lions didn’t rely as much upon Glover Quin, he still manage to play 84 percent of snaps, sixth most of any other Lions defensive player.

Surprisingly, the Lions didn’t use their other safeties all that much. Tavon Wilson only played situationally, while Tracy Walker saw the majority of his playing time (148 snaps) in the final five games of the season.

One player you do not see on this list is Miles Killebrew, who did not have a single defensive snap on the season. After playing 353 defensive snaps last year—most of which came in the first half of the year—I think it’s fair to say Killebrew’s future is on its last leg.