Breaking news: The Detroit Lions defense was awful in 2019. After disappointing performances from some of their star players—Darius Slay, Damon Harrison Sr., Mike Daniels—the Lions completely overhauled the roster on every level. They added Danny Shelton and Nick Williams on the defense front, Jamie Collins Sr. at the second level, and they completely overhauled their secondary.
Change doesn’t always mean improvement, but it’s clear the Lions were proactive this offseason in fixing some of the bigger problems they had last year.
The question, now, is who will lead this defense? Which player among this newly-formed roster will stand out as the best player and the key to this unit’s success. There are a lot of candidates, which can be viewed as either troubling (no superstar) or encouraging (lots of potential breakout players).
To continue our 2020 Detroit Lions preview series, our staff made their picks for Lions Defensive MVP.
Ryan Mathews: Desmond Trufant
I’ve been on this bandwagon for a bit, but I’m definitely buying all the stake in Desmond Trufant Island that anyone is selling. I think he comes into Detroit with something to prove after a couple of injury-dampened seasons in Atlanta and plays up to being a No. 1 corner.
Kellie Rowe: Desmond Trufant
I know all eyes are on rookie Jeff Okudah to make a big impact out of the gate (at the cost of a third overall pick, I’d hope so) but I believe Desmond Trufant will be a consistently powerful force this year. With the departure of Darius Slay, I think the veteran corner will step up and shine as a leader
Justin Simon: Tracy Walker
This might be a surprise, but I’m going with Tracy Walker. I don’t think the Lions defensive line is going to be very good this year and that means the secondary is going to have to shine. Walker has shown flashes so far in his NFL career, and I think he could make a big impact in the secondary in 2020.
Chris Perfett: No one
The absence of a MVP may very well be the only way this defense can have a great year, for either it will all suck together or all rise as one, one big lump of cream and all that. But we are a people who are asked to follow rules by tyrants and petty monsters.
John Whiticar: Amani Oruwariye
I’m going off the board and I’m picking Amani Oruwariye. With the additions of Desmond Trufant and Jeff Okudah, it seems like a stretch to make the Lions’ CB3 their MVP. However, I don’t see Oruwariye as their third stringer. I see him as a legitimate starter, and one that can shine. Okudah will come along slowly. Trufant has some wear and tear.
I think Trey Flowers and Jamie Collins Sr. are two very important—and very talented—pieces of the defense, but I have some concerns. Can Flowers overcome a sub-par defensive line around him in a scheme that prioritizes contain? How will the Lions play Collins? I think Oruwariye is a great dark horse pick for defensive MVP.
Hamza Baccouche: Jamie Collins Sr.
All we’ve heard since Collins came to Allen Park is how good he looks athletically, mentally, and everything in between. He moves well, moves quick, can cover well for a linebacker (especially for a Lions linebacker) and he seems, from what we’ve seen thus far, to be a natural leader.
I don’t see anyone else really as a star in the making besides Tracy Walker, but I’m staying away from him. The whole “let’s move him around to as many positions as possible” game that Patricia & Co. have played in training camp reeks of Graham Glasgow 2.0, and I don’t want to go near that with my predictions.
Kyle Yost: Trey Flowers
I think I was the only staff member to pick Flowers last season [editor’s note: he was] and I’m willing to bet on him again. While he might not have had the immediate impact that fans were hoping for last season, Flowers was still a solid addition to the Lions defense. I think his second year with the team will be even better, thanks to a full season of experience and some good additions across the front seven.
Mike Payton: Jamie Collins Sr.
I’m going with what may be a surprise pick here. I’m going with a new guy. Jamie Collins is just what this team desperately needed in the middle of the field. Being that he’s spent many years with Matt Patricia, it might be safe to say that nobody on this defense knows what Patricia expects more. Collins’ leadership will only help.
Andrew Kato: Jamie Collins Sr.
Jamie Collins is not going to rack up many countable statistics, but his experience and comfort level within an adapted Patriots-style defense will make everyone around him better. He’s an elite athlete (just look up the RAS card if you don’t believe it), and knows what to do with it in this system.
Jeremy Reisman: Tracy Walker
I saw so much maturation on and off the field for Tracy Walker in Year 2 that I think Year 3 is going to truly be his breakout season. The addition of Duron Harmon will give the Lions peace of mind to fully weaponize Walker for the defensive threat he is. He’ll lock down opposing tight ends. He’ll be a thumper in the running game. And when you least expect it, he’ll drop back into zone coverage and flash those athletic traits by spanning half the field for an interception.
The Lions need to be a ton better in coverage this year, and while many will look to Jeff Okudah and Desmond Trufant for that improvement, don’t sleep on Walker’s impact there.
Who will be the Lions’ defensive MVP in 2020?
This poll is closed
Jamie Collins Sr.