In what will be an ongoing series, I will be taking a look at each position on the Detroit Lions roster and examine where things stand, who has the best shot at making the final 53-man roster, and whether or not we improved in this area. Next up, defensive tackle.
There has been plenty of talk surrounding Ndamukong Suh and whether he will get an extension signed with the Detroit Lions. With both Suh and Fairley set to hit free agency in 2015, the future of the defensive tackle position for the Lions is getting a little shaky.
Regardless, Suh is here for at least another year and he’s still one of the best DTs in the game.
Last year, Suh was graded as the #2 defensive tackle by Pro Football Focus behind Gerald McCoy, and was the 10th most productive interior rusher with 72 total pressures (combination of sacks, hits, hurries) on 543 pass rush snaps.
Chances of making final roster: 100% (starting DT, top 3 in the NFL)
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Earlier this offseason, the Lions decided not to exercise Fairley’s fifth-year option on his contract. It’s evident that the Lions want a highly motivated Nick Fairley, but this could backfire on them if he has a breakout year.
The Lions are in a bit of a lose-lose situation when it comes to Nick Fairley right now. If he has another disappointing year for the Lions, then they may want to move on and label him as a bust. If he plays with a chip on his shoulder and has a breakout year, then it will be nearly impossible for the Lions to afford both Suh and Fairley.
It remains to be seen what the plan is for the Lions at DT, but I think going into next offseason there may be a pressing need there.
Chances of making final roster: 100% (starting DT next to Suh)
Last year Mosley was moved around the line and saw some snaps at both defensive tackle and defensive end, but I’m betting Austin will limit him to just playing the DT position. He adds great depth to this unit, and he’ll be a major asset on obvious running downs.
Chances of making final roster: 90% (rotational player, best we have at stuffing the run)
Up close, Caraun Reid looks like someone you just don’t want to mess with. He’s a freakishly strong athlete who also graduated from Princeton with a degree in sociology in early June of this year.
Reid is a perfect fit for the Lions who don’t really have many players aside from Suh and Fairley that can rush the passer from the interior line. I think Reid will have a fairly easy time making the final roster and should see some snaps as a pass rushing specialist, and could receive an even bigger role next year assuming the Lions cannot hold onto both Suh and Fairley.
Chances of making final roster: 80% (rotational DT, pass rushing specialist)
Fluellen has been on and off the Lions roster since 2008 and he has only 52 tackles and 2.5 sacks to show for it. Like last year, I don’t see the Lions carrying more than four defensive tackles on their 53-man roster, so Fluellen’s best shot is to fight for that fourth spot with Reid.
Chances of making final roster: 25% (on the bubble)
With the First Pick
Saddler-McQueen has had a tough time sticking to one team. In just 3 seasons he’s played for the Bears, Rams, Cowboys and Texans, as well as two separate Arena football teams.
His best shot is to beat out someone like Reid or Fluellen, but it’s highly unlikely at this point.
Chances of making final roster: 0% (camp body)
Proctor signed with the Lions last year and was among their final roster cuts, but spent the entire year on the practice squad. He has at least another year of eligibility for the practice squad, so I’d expect him to have a decent chance at making it again this year.
Chances of making final roster: 0% (practice squad)
Hickman is listed at six-foot, 278 pounds, which is relatively undersized for a defensive tackle, but he had an impressive showing at his pro day. He was signed subsequent to the release of Corvey Irvin two months ago.
Chances of making final roster: 0% (camp body)
Did They Improve?
Last year the Lions ended training camp with just four defensive tackles: Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley, and Justin Bannan. I expect to see those top three names stay the same, with the only change being fifth-round draft pick Caraun Reid over Bannan.
The Lions weren’t able to add some depth to the defensive tackle position during the offseason, and it could come back to haunt them if they aren’t able to work things out with Suh and/or Fairley at the end of the season.