Ziggy Ansah, Ashawn Robinson, Sylvester Williams (!) and Anthony Zettel. At this point last year, this was the Lions projected starting defensive line. Even the most optimistic of Lions lovers would give this group, at best, a mild chance to be merely solid. From health concerns to lack of production, it was clearly a unit that could use improvement.
A universal sigh of relief came over Lions nation with the addition of Ricky Jean Francois in late July. No offense to Mr. Francois, but it was clear the cupboards seemed bare whenever a guy like him comes in and is immediately viewed as a Day 1 starter. My oh my... what a difference a year can make.
The addition of Mike Daniels might be the proverbial straw that breaks the backs of camels and quarterbacks. It’s potentially the finishing piece of looks to be a nightmare of a defensive line. As we look at the additions made since this point last year, it’s like looking at the scrawny kid hitting puberty to return to school a new man and becoming Prom King.
Da’Shawn Hand proved to be a steal in the fourth round. Romeo Okwara seemingly came out of nowhere to provide some much needed pass rush at times. The addition of Snacks Harrison was a universal slam dunk perception wise and it lived up to the hype—a complete 180 for the run defense. Snack’s arrival seemed to help A’Shawn Robison ton as he went from a guy who rode the bench early to a stud run stuffer himself.
The offseason has been more than kind with Trey Flowers, one of the most sought after defensive ends, and the super talented Mike Daniels who is just a year removed from being a Pro Bowl. If we added Ricky Jean Francois at this point, he’d be our fifth defensive tackle. We’ve gone from asking if our defensive line can possibly overachieve or survive to is this the best defensive line in football?
Lions, King of the Jungle
Although there are several contenders to the throne, I’m giving the slight edge to our Lions over the Philadelphia Eagles (Derek Barnett, Malik Jackson, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham). What separates the Lions from the pack is it’s unmatched depth, especially up the middle. The ability to keep defensive tackles fresh all game is huge.
No one team can come close to the depth of Snacks-Robinson-Daniels-Hand. It’s also great insurance in case there is an injury. The defensive end spot isn’t as impressive depth wise, but having Trey Flowers, someone who creates consistent pressure every snap, is going to do wonders. Gone are the days of Ziggy Ansah providing double digit sacks, but missing huge stretches of the year.
This lineup reminds me of the depth the New York Giants had in the mid 2000s as they were able to roll out 4 or 5 defensive ends all game depending on the year (Strahan-Tuck-Umenyiora-Kiwanuku). The Lions have tons of pieces to play with, but ultimately it has to be realized on the field. For now though, all we have to go on is paper. And on said paper, the Lions have a combination of depth and talent that can’t be matched.
What’s your thoughts? Do the Lions have the best defensive line in the league?