The Detroit Lions’ defense is looking for improvement in its second season under head coach Matt Patricia, and one of the biggest changes comes from the front seven.
Long-time Lion but oft-injured Ezekiel Ansah has departed for the Seattle Seahawks, taking with him hopes of returning to his double-digit sack form. The Lions, meanwhile, opted to bring in former New England Patriot Trey Flowers. Signing him to a five-year, $90 million contract signals how critical he will be to their defense. Despite lacking a double-digit sack season in his career, he is quite effective at creating havoc for offensive lines, which opens up opportunities for other players.
Last season, the Lions edge rushers struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Despite leading the team with eight sacks, Romeo Okwara has a limited skill set as a pass rusher, as highlighted in Mansur Shaheen’s film breakdown. Devon Kennard, with seven sacks, also had similar issues generating a pass rush. Interestingly enough, one of the most effective Lion last season was Jarrad Davis, en route to six sacks. After drafting Jahlani Tavai, perhaps the Lions will use Davis as a pass rusher more often.
Elsewhere on defense, the Lions boast an excellent trio of defensive tackles in Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, and Da’Shawn Hand. However, run stuffing defensive tackles rarely generate multiple sacks. Harrison recorded four in 2018, while Hand and Robinson recorded three and one, respectively. Though they have been instrumental to the rebounding of the defense, it is unlikely that they will top the stat sheet.
The remainder of the defense features players likely in a rotational role. Rookie Austin Bryant will likely see the most time of the lot, but expect the Lions to ease the rookie into a set role, whether it be backing up Flowers or Kennard. Tavai or Christian Jones could register a sack or two, but pass rushing will not be their primary role.
My Question of the Day is:
Who will be the Lions’ sack leader in 2019?
I could be bold and say something like “Okwara will defend his title” or “Hand will continue his stellar growth and hit double digit sacks,” but the truth is that Flowers has the best chance to lead this team in sacks. Not only is he the most talented pass rusher on the team, but he figures to be on the field most of the time. It would not surprise me if Flowers had the most snaps of all defensive linemen in 2019 en route to 10+ sacks.