Despite the fact Detroit Lions are struggling through the first 12 weeks of the regular season, this late round rookie’s play continues to be a bright spot.
One area that was considered to be a weakness for the Detroit Lions last season was at defensive tackle. And the loss of five-time Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata via free agency earlier this year only highlighted that interior need.
Yet, through the first two days of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Lions opted to address other areas of need on their roster instead. And due to the fact they traded away their fourth round selection in order to move up in the second round to draft Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson, it left Detroit on the sidelines on Day Three of the draft until the fifth round.
But the Lions’ front office saw an opportunity to address their defensive needs early on Day Three. Da’Shawn Hand was a one-year starter at Alabama. His senior stat-line of 27 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks was unimpressive. But the 6-foot-3, 297 pound defensive lineman possessed the traits to be successful on the next level.
Projected to be a possible Day Two selection (second or third round), Hand had fallen to the fourth round. And Detroit was willing to send their 2019 third round selection to the New England Patriots in order to trade up for the rookie’s services. And that move may end up being one of the best decisions in franchise history.
Football analytic website Pro Football Focus recently ranked Hand as the second best rookie in the NFL through the first twelve weeks of the season so far. Here’s what PFF’s William Moy had to say about the interior defender’s performance so far.
"“Hand has earned a grade of at least 70.0 in nine of the 11 games he’s played in so far as a pro. The rookie out of ‘Bama is one of just six interior defenders to have recorded at least 15 run stops so far without missing a single tackle in run defense, and his 5.9 pass-rushing productivity rating ranks 24th out of those 121 interior defenders.”"
Through his first 11 games in Detroit, Hand has recorded 25 combined tackles and 3.0 sacks. He’s played a total of 415 defensive snaps. That’s more than 62 percent of the team’s snaps on defense, the second most of any defensive lineman on the squad.
The Lions, and more specifically, new head coach Matt Patricia really do trust the rookie. And Hand seems to be a foundational piece that the defensive guru will build upon.
Interior defensive lineman like Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand represent a bright future for the Detroit Lions. Regardless of the final standings this season, their play has been a bright spot for the Motor City.
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