2018 wasn’t a great year for the Detroit Lions defensively. While they finished a respectable 16th in points allowed, just about every other stat indicated a disaster season.
But by the end of the year, there was some real reasons for hope. The Lions held five of their last seven opponents below 25 points and their run defense became one of the best in the entire NFL. There was one big reason for that, but there were also a few other Lions players that deserve some recognition. So here are the 2018 candidates for Lions Defensive Player of the Year.
Damon Harrison Sr.
The trade for “Snacks” was a very clear turning point in the season for the Lions defense. Detroit seemed hopeless stopping the run before the trade and they seemed unstoppable afterwards.
It’s rare that you see a defensive tackle make such a big difference in the on-field product—and one that cost the team just a fifth-round pick, no less—but Harrison was that big of a game-changer.
He not only made a ton of plays himself, but he made everyone around him better, which was great news for A’Shawn Robinson, Romeo Okwara and Da’Shawn Hand.
Slay had a down year by his standards, only tallying 17 passes defended and three interceptions. While it’s clear he struggled at times, his season was probably better than you remember.
Stephon Gilmore (@BumpNrunGilm0re) was successful on 61.3% of his targets, the highest rate among outside CB.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) February 8, 2019
CB Success Rate evaluates coverage performance by rewarding defenders that force incompletions while also including completions that put the offense at a disadvantage. pic.twitter.com/R8IXWvZK7F
Slay was still easily the Lions’ best cornerback in 2018, and it was enough to earn him a second Pro Bowl, despite the fact that he didn’t finish in the top 10 of fan voting. That just goes to show you how respected he is amongst his peers.
If you heard a loud THWACK during a Lions game, there was approximately a 99 percent chance Quandre Diggs was the culprit. All year, Diggs was laying the boom from the secondary, and he was doing it clean—a miracle by today’s NFL standards.
But he wasn’t just laying big hits in 2018, he was also making big plays. He had three interceptions on the year, including one on the very first play of the season and the very last defensive play of the year. He also set a career high in tackles, with a whopping 78.
If the contract extension at the beginning of the year wasn’t telling enough, his 2018 season proved that Diggs is—and will continue to be—an integral part of this defense.
Who was the Lions 2018 Defensive Player of the Year
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