Earlier in the week, we looked at the Detroit Lions’ snap counts on offense from the 2019 season. Aside from the obvious injury to Matthew Stafford, that side of the ball managed to stay relatively healthy, and it provided some stability—and decent play—from the offense.
The defense was an entirely different story. Several key players either missed a lot of time or played through injury after injury. But how bad was it?
Let’s take a look at the Lions’ 2019 snap counts on defense.
2019 Detroit Lions defensive snap counts
Trey Flowers: 705 (68.7%)
Romeo Okwara: 606 (53.0%)
Austin Bryant: 133 (11.6%)
Frank Herron: 103 (9.0%)
Jonathan Wynn: 7 (0.6%)
There’s nothing surprising about the order of snap counts here, but a closer look at Trey Flowers’ snap counts reveals something mildly interesting. His 705 defensive snaps is actually the lowest of his career since his second year in the league, when he was only a part-time starter for the Patriots.
His decrease in playing time likely had to do with injuries. He started the season only averaging about 50-60 percent of playing time in the first month after dealing with offseason shoulder surgery. Then, again, his snap counts dipped after suffering his concussion in Week 10.
If Flowers can stay healthy, there’s a good chance his playing time sees a significant uptick next year.
A’Shawn Robinson: 527 (46.1%)
Damon Harrison Sr.: 527 (46.1%)
John Atkins: 409 (35.8%)
Mike Daniels: 204 (17.9%)
Kevin Strong: 172 (15.1%)
Da’Shawn Hand: 110 (9.6%)
Jamie Meder: 12 (1.1%)
No position was hit by the injury bug more than defensive tackle. Even the players that saw the most snaps—A’Shawn Robinson and Damon Harrison Sr., who miraculously tied in total snaps—spent a ton of time on the injury list. Robinson missed the final three games with an injury, while Snacks only missed one game, but saw his playing time decrease significantly when he was in the lineup.
To give you a closer look at how much Snacks was impacted by injury, in 2018, Harrison played in 60 percent or more of defensive snaps in six of 10 games with Detroit. In 2019, he didn’t cross that threshold in a single game until Week 10.
Then there were the interior pass rushers. Mike Daniels and Da’Shawn Hand combined for just 314 total snaps on the season. For comparison’s sake, Aaron Donald finished 2019 with 926 snaps logged on his own.
This led to the Lions utilizing guys like John Atkins (40 total snaps prior to 2019) and Kevin Strong (rookie) way more than they had intended.
Devon Kennard: 936 (81.9%)
Jarrad Davis: 655 (57.3%)
Christian Jones: 610 (53.4%)
Jahlani Tavai: 597 (52.2%)
Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 297 (26.0%)
Miles Killebrew: 87 (7.6%)
Steve Longa: 54 (4.7%)
Anthony Pittman: 17 (1.5%)
The linebacking corps took a pretty big hit in injuries this year, as well. Take, for example, the team’s top two off-ball linebackers, Christian Jones and Jarrad Davis. Let’s compare their usage to last year.
2018: 976 snaps (98.9%)
2019: 655 snaps (57.3%)
2018: 643 snaps (65.2%)
2019: 610 snaps (53.4%)
One small note: As you can see by small difference in Jones’ snap counts but the high variance in percentage, the Lions faced a lot more defensive snaps in 2019 than they did in 2018.
Justin Coleman: 963 (84.3%)
Rashaan Melvin: 870 (76.1%)
Darius Slay: 858 (75.1%)
Amani Oruwariye: 215 (18.8%)
Mike Ford: 166 (14.5%)
Jamal Agnew: 21 (1.8%)
Dee Virgin: 1 (0.1%)
In terms of sheer playing time, the Lions got their money’s worth in free agent addition Justin Coleman, who played in the most snaps of any Lions cornerback despite being a nickel corner. Darius Slay’s various injuries across the season pushed him down into third.
Oruwariye only played in 215 snaps. However, all but nine of those snaps came in the final six games of the season.
Tracy Walker: 843 (73.8%)
Tavon Wilson: 840 (73.5%)
Will Harris: 668 (58.4%)
Quandre Diggs: 293 (25.6%)
C.J. Moore: 76 (6.7%)
Despite missing three games, Walker led the safeties in snaps, taking a huge jump from his 267 rookie snaps last year.
Rookie Will Harris saw a healthy 58 percent of snaps and, in fact, led all Lions rookies in playing time in 2019. While his performance wasn’t necessarily up to par, it was obviously good experience for the former Boston College player.
I just wanted to make an overall point on just how injured this unit was, in case it wasn’t clear enough from the data above. Look at the player with the most snaps from 2018:
- Jarrad Davis: 976 (98.9%)
- Quandre Diggs: 948 (96.1%)
- Nevin Lawson: 877 (88.9%)
- Darius Slay: 875 (88.7%)
- Devon Kennard: 864 (87.5%)
- Glover Quin: 829 (84.0%)
Six players played at least 84 percent or higher.
Now let’s look at 2019:
- Justin Coleman: 963 (84.3%)
- Devon Kennard: 936 (81.9%)
- Rashaan Melvin: 870 (76.1%)
- Darius Slay: 858 (75.1%)
- Tracy Walker: 843 (73.8%)
Just one player that managed to log over 84 percent of snaps and only two who managed 80 percent, as opposed to six in 2018.
Think about that for a second. In 2018, more than half of the starting lineup was able to play in 84 percent of the snaps or higher. In 2019, that number was one.