Detroit Lions: Pre-training camp Defense roster predictions

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 10: Detroit Lions players celebrate after recovering a fumble in the second quarter of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 10: Detroit Lions players celebrate after recovering a fumble in the second quarter of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Training camp is upon us. I dive in the Detroit Lions defense and see who can make the opening game roster and who has the potential for surprises and steal a spot on the roster.

In my last piece, I broke down my roster predictions for the Detroit Lions offense. This time around I will be diving into the Detroit Lions defense. I found this one to be a little more challenging because of the number of versatile pieces among the defense and scheme questions; but here are my predictions along with a sleeper at each of the positions.

DL: Ezekiel Ansah, Da’Shawn Hand, Kerry Hyder, Anthony Zettel, A’Shawn Robinson, Sylvester Williams, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Cornelius Washington, Jeremiah Valoaga

Ansah is the best pass rusher the Lions have. Robinson and Williams will the key cogs in the middle of the defensive line. Zettel and Hyder will play a vital role and provide the necessary depth with no drop-off. Hand and Ledbetter have the versatility to play 3T/5T along the line and each has plenty of experience to be effective. Washington will probably find himself behind a few others on the depth chart, but he brings a veteran presence that can prove invaluable. Valoaga has the versatility to play either defensive end of linebacker in that Jack linebacker role

Sleeper: Alex Barrett. If Washington’s contract proves to be too rich and/or Barrett can outplay Valoaga for the same role during camp, he can earn a spot on the roster.

LB: Jarrad Davis, Devon Kennard, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Christian Jones, Jonathan Freeny, Steve Longa, Chad Meredith

Davis is locked in at middle linebacker. Kennard will have a key role with the new defensive scheme as the Jack linebacker. Reeves-Maybin and Jones will be vying for the starting Will linebacker role and one of the camp battles to keep your eye on. Freeny and Longa bring the veteran presence to a young linebacker corps and special team’s ability. They will have eyes on the back of their head because there are a few young guns that could easily take over. Meredith has been impressing in camp and he fills a role in the defensive scheme as a Jack linebacker.

Sleeper: Al-Rasheed Benton. He is strong against the run, gap discipline, and isn’t afraid to make his presence known with his hard hits. He could easily take one of the depth linebacker positions over Freeny or Longa if he has a strong camp.

CB: Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Teez Tabor, DeShawn Shead, Jamal Agnew

Slay will continue his dominance at one the best corner in the league. Tabor has been getting plenty of reps playing opposite of Slay and I think it will continue through camp. Lawson and Agnew will battle for the nickel corner spot. Lawson provides depth along the corner positions and Agnew will make the roster purely on his special teams ability, but keep your eyes on the nickel corner battle. Shead has the position versatility to play anywhere along the secondary.

Sleeper: Mike Ford. Ford brings the traits you want in a corner with his size, speed, and strong technique. With the suspected high usage out of the nickel corner position with the new defensive scheme, Ford could vie for one of the last roster spots

S: Glover Quin, Tracy Walker, Tavon Wilson, Miles Killebrew, Quandre Diggs

Quin will be one of the leaders among the defense. Walker will be groomed with the possibility of taking over for Quin eventually. He will probably get the Tabor treatment this year and learn from one of the better safeties in the league, but he might get some reps later in the season. Diggs showed he belongs at the safety position with a strong showing last season. Killebrew and Wilson will be competing for the third safety role with the new defensive scheme this year.

Sleeper: Charles Washington. Washington backed up Quin last year, so he has shown he can be a quality backup in the safety role. He will be competing for one of those last spots on the roster.

Next: Detroit Lions: Pre-training camp Offense roster predictions

The training camp battles to watch are as follows: Alex Barrett vs. Jeremiah Valoaga at EDGE/Jack, Reeves-Maybin vs. Jones at Will linebacker, Lawson vs. Agnew at nickel corner, Wilson vs. Killebrew as the third safety. There are many versatile players in this defense; and with the new scheme that will be implemented, it’ll be interesting to see how they will be used. The Lions have a deep rotation of players and can be a reliable unit under new head coach Matt Patricia.