Detroit Lions: One depth chart strength, one weakness

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 07: Alex Collins
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 07: Alex Collins /

The Detroit Lions published their first depth chart for 2017, giving us a chance to examine the roster for both strong and weak spots.

The Detroit Lions gave us a look at their initial depth chart earlier this week. Though it’s unofficial, it still gives some insight at where the team is at heading into their first preseason game.  Let’s take a look at an area of strength and weakness at this first glance at the roster.

Strength: Interior Offensive Line

The area of strength is the middle of the offensive line. Center Travis Swanson grew up a ton last year under the the tutelage of former Lions’ center Dominic Raiola. Swanson will anchor the middle of the line barring injury.

Left guard Graham Glasgow is probably the weakest starter up front – at least he has a healthy Taylor Decker on his outside at left tackle (once he returns from his shoulder injury, that is). At right guard is former Green Bay Packer T.J. Lang. The squad will rely on his pass blocking prowess, shoring up what was a leaky right-side in 2016.

Only Glasgow figures to have any real position battle on his hand, as his backup is second year lineman Joe Dahl. Dahl played in six games until the injury big bit last year, but impressed in those limited snaps. He will push Glasgow for the starting role.

Dahl has the ability to play pretty much anywhere up front, as well. While this is a nice thing to have on your bench, if he’s the better player at left guard, then he’ll jump Glasgow and start.

Here’s where the situation is unique, as far the Lions go: they may have to cut some quality talent. This is not a common occurrence in the Motor City. Laken Tomlinson, a third-year player from Duke, is currently listed as the back-up at right guard.

The former first round pick has played, at best, at a mediocre level in his two years in Detroit. He’s got some skill, though, and if the team cuts him, he will get picked up by another squad.

Another player making waves in camp is Leo Koloamatangi. An undrafted rookie from Hawaii, Koloamatangi has had a strong camp. He’s still a long shot to make the roster, but according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Koloamatangi has impressed in practice sessions. Since the team signed him early this spring, he’s thrown on weight too. He’s got the size and the brains to play center, so the team will have a decision to make on him.

Weakness: Defensive End

The glaring, gaping hole on this depth chart is at defensive end. Relying on second year man Anthony Zettel to provide pass rush opposite of Kerry Hyder is a problem.

Zettel played in 13 games as a rookie last year, but only registered 10 tackles in limited time. Even if he has improved greatly, has he grown enough to be a reliable menace to opposing quarterbacks? Probably not.

Hyder, who started the year on a tear, fell off as opposing teams figured him out later in the season. Offenses were able to neutralize him as it was evident he was the only pocket collapser on the team.

Behind the two starters are Armonty Bryant and Cornelius Washington. Bryant came over from Cleveland and played in five games last year for the Lions. He did have three sacks in only five contests, but showed little else.

Washington is a fifth-year player who comes to Detroit from the Chicago Bears. The Bears were terrible last year, and still didn’t think enough of the guy to try and keep him. The depth doesn’t get any prettier from there.

Of course, this position changes greatly when Ziggy Ansah returns from the Physically Unable to Perform list. Losing Ansah for any length of time would be devastating.

If Ansah is healthy, Hyder becomes a legitimate threat again, too. And while I am not high on Zettel as a first teamer, as a backup, he’s much more in his element.

Next: Detroit Lions preseason - Straight talk needed, not a sales pitch

Wrap Up: Preseason Opener

The Detroit Lions open the preseason on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The battle for the left guard spot will be one of the highlights of the game for passionate fans. Will Leo Koloamatangi show enough to threaten for a roster spot? And can the defensive ends develop any pressure up front? Thank goodness we only have to wait a little while longer to find out.