Expect a heavy dose of two linebackers accompanied by three safety sets this up and coming season for the retooled Matt Patricia Detroit Lions defense.
The Detroit Lions drafted linebacker Jahlani Tavai & safety Will Harris in consecutive rounds in the past NFL Draft. Matt Patricia is hoping to create a versatile defense in Detroit. Will Harris is an impressive selection; he’s an athletic safety who has no issue lining up man to man with wide-outs, but with Quandre Diggs likely working on the slot receiver opposite Justin Coleman, Harris will find himself locked up with a tight end.
Expect a Detroit Lions base defense set to include just a two-linebacker look with three safeties on the field much of the time. We all know Darius Slay will be locking down one side of the field, the opposite starting outside corner position is up for grabs between rookie Amani Oruwariye, veteran Rashaan Melvin, & Jalen Tabor.
Tavon Wilson or Tracy Walker are expected to share the starting strong safety position once again for the Detroit Lions until one of them emerges more consistent than the other. Both are above average against the run but at times struggles in pass coverage. He’s better-suited lining up against a tight end rather than a wideout. Expect Wilson to play a lot of snaps in the box for the Lions almost as another linebacker. Both Diggs & Harris should play more of a traditional safety look in this year’s defense.
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The Detroit Lions defensive line I consider to be the best in the division– yes, I realize the Chicago Bears are still in the NFC North. That’s how impressed I am with the signing of Trey Flowers paired with Damon Harrison for the upcoming season. A’shawn Robinson is an above average run plugger inside next to Snacks; I think Da’Shaun Hand is poised to have a breakout season with much attention being taken to the rest of the Lions DL.
Those four big men up front should allow both Jarrad Davis & Jahlani Tavai to roam free in pursuit, making plenty of tackles. Both Devon Kennard and Christian Jones will have plenty of opportunities to make plays as well.
I also expect Austin Bryant, a defensive end out of Clemson to get a lot of reps in a rotation with Hand at the left-end position. Heading into the second year as head coach Matt Patricia is finally shaping a defense to fit his scheme.
The addition of Harrison last year added an anchor on the defensive front. Slay has the ability to cut the field in half. Coleman, Diggs, and Harris all have plenty of talent to control the slot receivers and tight ends. I am a bit concerned with the other outside corner. Melvin played for Patricia briefly in New England.
He explained his struggles in Oakland recently last year were because he was asked to play a lot of zone coverage. He prefers to lock up man to man, in Matt Patricia’s defense that’s critical. He could emerge over Oruwariye, but if they both happen to struggle, it will be a position the Aaron Rodgers‘ of the world will try to expose regularly.