The Detroit Lions roster experienced a lot of change this offseason. But which positional group might surprise fans the most come September?
Outside of their stellar passing game, the Detroit Lions experienced a lot of change this offseason. From hiring a new head coach in Matt Patricia to adding to their talented offensive line, a new set of shining running backs and an entirely revamped defense; the Motor City should look a lot different than what fans saw out of their Lions just last season.
Is that a good thing? Only time will tell. For now, every NFL is a Super Bowl candidate in the summer. And Detroit is no different.
From the outside looking in, the Lions appeared to be much improved. Specifically on offense. Despite the addition of Patricia and the turnover of the majority of the coaching staff, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter remains. So, fans can expect to see the same passing offense that has led the team to so much success in the past few seasons.
The addition of running backs LeGarrette Blount and rookie Kerryon Johnson represents a new era in Detroit’s ground game. Blount gives the Lions a veteran sledgehammer to pound opposing defenses with while Johnson’s all-around game is likely the future of this franchise’s rushing attack.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford, Blount and Johnson should all benefit from this recently completed offensive line. On paper, the combination of left tackle Taylor Decker, rookie left guard Frank Ragnow, center Graham Glasgow, right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Ricky Wagner are among the best starting O-lines in the NFL.
Where the majority of the mystery lies in Detroit is on defense. The Lions’ secondary remains relatively intact, led by Pro Bowlers in cornerback Darius Slay and safety Glover Quinn. Premier pass rusher Ziggy Ansah anchors the defensive line, along with fellow defensive ends Kerry Hyder and Anthony Zettel.
Detroit’s interior defensive line could be an issue, with former second-rounder A’Shawn Robinson and the newly signed Sylvester Williams attempting to replace All-Pro Haloti Ngata who left for Philly this offseason.
But the area of the team that suffered the most turnover is at linebacker. According to one Lions’ insider, this is a positional group that will look very different come September.
"“Detroit wanted to get bigger and more physical at linebacker, so they went out and signed Devon Kennard (6-4, 256), Christian Jones (6-0, 244) and Jonathan Freeny (6-2, 245) in free agency,” wrote Tim Twentyman for the team’s official website. “The Lions are expected to rush the quarterback a lot more using linebackers, and all three of these players have experience doing it … the look and responsibilities of the linebacker position could be quite different than what Lions fans are used to seeing.”"
Known for being a defensive guru and literal rocket scientist, Patricia’s schemes helped to lead the New England Patriots to three Super Bowls during his stint as defensive coordinator. No doubt Detroit is relying on his playbook to lead the Motor City to playoff success.
The Detroit Lions have revamped this linebacker corps to Matt Patricia’s specifications. So fans may be surprised by just how well they play early simply because it’s the one area of the defense best suited to quickly transition to this new defensive scheme.