Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions Roster: Breakout Players


DeAndre Levy came into the 2013 season as a starter by default only. Many fans were surprised when the Detroit Lions retained Levy over Justin Durant, who was allowed to leave and signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Despite fans’ misgivings about his retention, Levy would go on to have a Pro Bowl caliber season and was easily one of the Lions’ best defenders last season. Are any other players on the Detroit Lions roster poised for a similar breakout season?

Darius Slay

This would be ideal for obvious reasons. Slay struggled early in 2013 and was obviously having trouble adjusting to the speed of the game.   In what should have been his toughest draw of the season on Thanksgiving against Jordy Nelson and James Jones, Slay showed the type of coverage skills the Lions believed they had drafted in the 2nd round. Sadly, his season was cut short by injury shortly thereafter. He has had a full offseason to heal and if he can continue to improve off his Thanksgiving performance, Slay could make defenses pay for constantly challenging the secondary.

Devin Taylor

In addition to being one of the biggest defensive ends in the draft, Taylor was also one of the most athletic as well as one of the most raw. He was thrown to the wolves anyway and managed to come out a much better player by season’s end than most had anticipated. Taylor will be given every chance to start in 2014 and, assuming he wins the job, will have every chance to act as the “closer” the coaches want.

Jeremy Ross

Ross became an instant fan favorite when he replaced the ineffective Micheal Spurlock as the Lions’ returner. After several successive years of poor special teams play, the Lions finally had a returner that could flip the field and fans couldn’t have been more excited. The addition of Tate and Ebron make the Lions’ receiving corps more crowded than Ross likely would have liked, but he’ll still have a chance to showcase himself as a dangerous weapon in the Lions’ arsenal if given the chance.

Theo Riddick

With an effective one-two punch in Bush and Bell, Riddick has been somewhat of a forgotten figure in the Detroit Lions backfield this offseason. If Lombardi is truly using the Saints’ offensive philosophies, however, Riddick will get plenty of opportunities to break out. I’m not talking a 1,000 yard season or anything like that, but Riddick will be given every opportunity to see the field and should get between 40 and 80 carries.

Jonte Green

The trendy choice would be to put Chris Greenwood here since he’s a local product and fans love that. From what I’ve seen of new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s tendencies, however, I don’t expect the Lions to press all that often and instead continue to play off coverage. That doesn’t work in Greenwood’s favor, but it does help Green significantly. This isn’t the first time he’s been a breakout candidate, but he’s at his best when he can keep the play in front of him, something he wasn’t given many opportunities for in 2013. Green was drafted due to his closing speed and tackling ability, both of which lend themselves to the type of defense Austin could run.

Glover Quin

No longer playing out of position at strong safety, and with a far superior secondaries coach in Alan Williams, Quin should be put in a very strong position to succeed in 2014. If he answers the bell, and there’s no reason to suspect he will not, Quin could be looking forward to a very productive season in a defense that plays to his strengths.  He was one of the best defenders on the Detroit Lions roster in 2013, and should be again in 2014.

Others?

There are at least 53 players that COULD have break out seasons in 2014. Calvin Johnson himself showed the world that even when you’re considered the best you can still outdo expectations. Do you agree with the players I’ve highlighted here? Let us know in the comments if you disagree, or if there are other players you feel have the potential to make a bigger-than-expected impact in 2014!

Next Lions Game View full schedule »
Thursday, Aug 2828 Aug7:00at Buffalo BillsBuy Tickets

Tags: Darius Slay Detroit Lions Glover Quin Theo Riddick

  • Derek Mack

    Great work Kent. i like how you honed in on two players in secondary as potentially having breakout seasons in 2014. While we fans have been conditioned to believe talent on the backend of the defense is atrocious, Schwartz’s designs often set the team’s corners and safeties up to fail. Under Schwartz, the Lions team ran what amounted to prevent defenses in the secondary an inordinate amount of time. Under Austin, the team figures to implement more coverage alignments that better defense situations based on down and distance. Additionally, there are two highly competent defense back coaches assigned to better develop the play of the team’s corners and safeties. The hope is they will aid the secondary in unlearning the poor habits they picked up under the last regime. Mathis hinted at this a bit shortly after re-signing with the team when he said he thought he would be BETTER in 2014 than he was in 2013. His confidence was allegedly rooted in familiarity with the defense. The curious thing about his statement was the team is installing a new design that is still in the works. Reading between the lines though it becomes clear Mathis thinks being a more conventional secondary alignment will benefit his play. I don’t think Mathis is alone as I expect all of the defensive backs to take a step up in their play; though I suspect Slay will take the biggest leap forward.