The Lions Have the Right Roles Defined

There was a great article posted back in June of this year written by Erik Schlitt comparing the 2020 team to the 2022 team. I found this differences cited interesting, but also the scheme changes were just as important to note. However, I am inclined to believe that the improved play of the Lions is due to even further evolution and, or transformation of the roles assigned on defense.

I am not sure I have it really all correct yet either. I've tried to look at other resources like ESPN, Yahoo, and CBS but I'm not convinced they take the time and assess the subtle changes that every team in the NFL goes through. Yes, the players are listed, but there's a lot more going on with assignments and position responsibilities that just aren't clearly depicted.

Without further adieu, here's my take on how the Lions are assigned. I'd welcome some other insight or simply comments to correct what I think is how it is now:

Big DE - current starter John Cominsky, probable rotational or alternate starters Josh Paschal and Romeo Okwara. If Eric Banks is available or signed to the practice squad he'd probably be positioned here too.

Rush DE - Charles Harris was starting until he was injured and Austin Bryant was recently asked to step in. Julian Okwara probably has the predominant assignment for now though.

Hybrid LB / DE - Aidan Hutchinson probably essentially owns this role now. Julian Okwara and Josh Woods are the alternates if Hutchinson takes a breather. It would seem likely that James Houston would be another candidate for this role if he earns a promotion from the practice squad.

MIKE MLB - Alex Anzalone and Derrick Barnes probably split time here. Jarad Davis would be the last man standing to fill this role probably.

WILL OSLB - Malcom Rodriguez is the primary with Tim Board filling in as a strong cover man. I guess Anthony Pittman is the depth man for this role.

Shoulder Tech DT - Alim McNeill earns nearly full time duty in this position. Lurking in the background is probably Michael Brockers as the best option to take over if anything happened to Mac. Levi Onwuzurike likely is also best positioned as this type of player, and if he comes back he'll have this similar role to rotate with Mac or play opposite him.

Nose Tackle DT - Isaiah Buggs probably doesn't play head on with the opposing center but I think he is more of the anchor lineman that is assigned to hold the line while Mac is freed to charge up field. I don't know Benito Jones' strengths very well but I'm hoping he is a big enough guy to fill in if anything happened to Buggs. If Bruce Hector is available or signed to the practice squad he would be the third man option for this role.

Lead OS CB - Jeff Okudah has been our best corner and takes the toughest wide receiver opponents on. I imagine in the current lineup Amani Oruwariye will be asked to take this role on in Okudah's absence. Mike Hughes would be the third man up.

Opposite OS CB - I believe Will Harris has subplanted Oruwariye for now and earned this position as a good cover and heavy hitting corner. Jerry Jacobs would be the next man up here or perhaps if Harris is selected to be the lead CB, however I would be inclined to believe Mike Hughes is part of the normal rotation outside while Jacobs plays the nickel role. Bobby Price would be the next man up, when he is healthy again. Saivon Smith was likely playing this role too before his injury.

Nickel Back - As mentioned Jerry Jacobs appears to be the DB of choice for this role. Rookie Chase Lucas is perhaps the next man up if Jacobs is moved outside or needs a breather. AJ Parker has started in the past in this role, and despite being a relatively small player I think he has shown promise at times. Mike Hughes has also been a performer at this position.

Free Safety - I admit to being a bit confused here. I think Tracy Walker initially had this role. Then, perhaps Kerby Joseph. However, does DeShon Elliott also play this type of role, or the strong safety role? JuJu Hughes was also a contributor at this position too, I believe. I don't know if JR Reed is or isn't on the roster to also support this role.

Strong Safety - I thought this was Elliott's primary role, but perhaps it's not or he plays some version of a hybrid safety role now. CJ Moore is the primary back-up now I believe. Ifeatu Melifonwu might be stationed here in the future, if he's finally healthy enough to play.

That's 12 position groups, but only 11 players can be on the field at a time. Obviously some substitutions must be made. IS there some evidence of how these are made with regard to certain situations? Does the type of opponent help to dictate whether a nickel versus a will or perhaps a strong safety is on the field?

Any insight you can may have would be appreciated. Also, is my alignment making more sense of what the Lions are doing than in the past?

The article I mentioned from Erik Schlitt, might be interesting to refer to and to see how the position groups have changed or morphed.

By the way, I believe I have mentioned 39 players on defense in this article. I think this demonstrates how depth has been developed unlike that of prior Lions' teams. Clear positioning, solid role definitions, and focused coaching I think are making a big difference - and I hope it can continue to show winning results.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.