Detroit Lions: What will be Da’Shawn Hand’s impact in 2018?
By Kellen Voss
The Detroit Lions traded up in the fourth round to draft the former Alabama defensive linemen. He may not start, but he should make an impact in 2018.
Last week, the Detroit Lions signed five of their draft picks from last month, putting these young men one step closer to their dreams of finally stepping onto an NFL football field.
One of those five players is defensive linemen Da’Shawn Hand, from Alabama. Although the Lions fourth rounder is not projected to be a starter, his high motor and ability to rush the quarterback should land him some time on the field. The question is: how much?
This won’t be Hand’s first time in the spotlight. Back in 2014, the former high school wrestling champion was considered the number one recruit in the country, ultimately picking Alabama over other prestigious programs like Michigan and Florida.
But as is often the case with such highly touted recruits, Hand was unable to live up to extremely high expectations put in front of him.
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This is not to say Hand didn’t produce in his time with the Crimson Tide. He was a four year contributor for Nick Saban’s squad, totaling 71 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks in his four years in Tuscaloosa.
There were two main reasons that Hand didn’t exactly live up to any of the lofty expectations set for him coming out of high school. One of those reasons was a lack of playing time, as Hand had to fight to stay on the field on one of the deepest college programs in the country. He also fought through injuries, including a minor knee injury that caused him to miss three games his senior year.
The other reason Hand didn’t find massive success at Alabama was simply that the fact that he didn’t really fit into Alabama’s defensive scheme. Known as a great pass rusher in high school and a decent two-gap defender today, Alabama’s defense is more focused on gap control than penetration, which wasn’t a strength of Hand’s when he came to school.
But a lot can change in four years. Hand worked his way up from a mere rotational player to a solid starter by his senior season, earning All-SEC second team honors this past year.
While Hand won’t always be able to rely on his athleticism in the NFL, his improved technique, football knowledge and mentality can more than make up for that. No one has witnessed that growth more than Hand himself.
"“I think with any player coming out of high school to now, you mature a lot. Your technique gets better, and then your football I.Q. gets better,” said Hand told The Detroit News. “I’ve got a ‘win’ attitude, that’s what I plan on using when I come (to Detroit).”"
One thing that a lot of rookies struggle with in their first year is getting comfortable with the situation around them. Just like many young people this time of year transitioning into the “real world”, rookies excel when they have guidance from leaders that they trust.
For Hand, that trust clearly exists here in Detroit in more ways than one. The Lions recently hired Bo Davis, Hand’s former defensive line coach at Alabama, to coach up their space eaters in the defensive line. Hand clearly loves Davis, as he trusts him fully and speaks highly of him in many interviews.
Having that guidance from a leader he already knows and trust gives Hand a huge advantage over many rookie linemen in the NFL today. There will be no awkward learning period, as Hand will be able to stay in some of the exact same schemes he performed the best in with the Crimson Tide.
Another great thing Hand has going for him is getting to play alongside friend and former teammate A’Shawn Robinson. Robinson can provide Hand with even more comfort on the line, providing a veteran presence for the young rookie to look to in need of assistance.
Hand was put into a very good situation for him in Detroit, as these familiar faces and familiar schemes, along with more freedom to rush the quarterback, can help him turn a few heads in his first professional season.
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It would be fairly far-fetched to project Da’Shawn Hand as a starter for the Detroit Lions in 2018, but some solid rotational production as the year goes along is to be expected. The spotlight won’t be on the rookie defender in the way that it was in high school, but maybe that’s just the way Hand likes it.