Aug 15, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Cooper (88) against Detroit Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) at FirstEnergy Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
Famously, the Detroit Lions didn’t blitz much under Jim Schwartz and his wide-nine defensive scheme, and as a result, the team could be facing a talent drain as it results to ferocious edge rushers, which they’ll need plenty of in 2014.
Speaking with Kyle Meinke of MLive, new Lions’ head coach Jim Caldwell admitted as much, and perhaps shed a tiny bit of light on the team’s future draft plans in the coming weeks.
"“Obviously we have a need,” Caldwell said. “Ziggy (Ansah) does a great job, now. That’s one thing we’ll keep working with him. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s physical, he can get on the edge and work you inside and outside. He’s one of those guys who can get on the outside and go.“Now we also need trying to find maybe a little bit different flavor in that regard, trying to find maybe another guy who can do it. He may be in our program right now, in our organization. We have to see how he fits within our scheme, but obviously, anyone can use a flamethrower, and sometimes you find one here or there.”"
The hot name lately has become Anthony Barr, a linebacker from UCLA who many scouts consider to be the best pass rushing linebacker in the draft. Many writers, including Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, have penciled Barr in for the Lions with pick 10 this May considering this need on the edge for someone who can create havoc in the opposition’s backfield. But is Barr a flamethrower?
All of this talk could be taken as a smokescreen. Remember, Detroit recently signed a hybrid pass rusher in Darryl Tapp, who has proven to be the exact definition of a flamethrower in his career, collecting 25 sacks, two interceptions and nine forced fumbles while making a living harassing quarterbacks.
Otherwise, the Lions have linebacker Tahir Whitehead on the roster, who has played mostly on special teams during the early portion of his career. Whitehead, though, has been lauded in the past for having excellent speed, and perhaps if given a bigger role, he could show flashes of what the team has expected for a few years. Additionally, the Lions have Devin Taylor on board, a player who figures to have a bright future as an edge rusher after making plays as a rookie.
It’s no mystery that Detroit needs one more pass rusher come May. Where they take him, though, is anyone’s guess. It’s too early to tell if the Lions really crave a player like Barr, or will be content to mine gold later on in the draft as they have done successfully recently with former defensive end Willie Young and Taylor.
Caldwell’s acknowledgement of the players already on the roster does seem to leave the door open for some speculation, or at the very least, lend to questions about whether edge rusher is clearly the preeminent early need many figure it to be in one month’s time.
Simply, Detroit might already have a flamethrower or two on the roster.