The Detroit Lions boast a stout defensive front in 2019. Injuries over have hit the unit hard, but their newfound depth should serve them well this summer.
After signing former Pro Bowl defensive lineman Mike Daniels on Friday, the Detroit Lions’ defensive line strengthened their growing reputation as one of the strongest and deepest fronts in the league. A flurry of injuries over the weekend underscored the value of that depth, and hinted at scenarios that the Lions may need to face during the regular season.
According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the defensive line rotation turned into a sick bay Sunday. Most notably, second year lineman Da’Shawn Hand left practice early with an arm injury, joining linemates Trey Flowers and Damon Harrison on the sideline, who have yet to fully practice in training camp.
Add in A’Shawn Robinson, who remains away from the team for personal reasons, and Daniels, who Birkett reports was limited to sideline work in his first day with the team, and you’d be hard pressed to name many full participants on Sunday. Could the Lions’ strongest position group be unraveling weeks before the season begins?
Probably not. While Hand’s early departure is concerning – he is expected to have a major role this year in his second season – Flowers and Harrison seem probable to be back practicing with the team shortly. Robinson isn’t injured, and Daniels should be ready to go after the Lions’ off day on Monday. The Lions, along with most teams, tend to err on the side of caution with summertime injuries anyway.
Assorted training camp ailments are inevitable, and the more time that these players miss, the longer the invaluable unit chemistry will take to develop. The depth is being tested, but the Lions have constructed this unit to be able to withstand trying situations.
Rest assured, the chances of all of the Lions’ top six defensive linemen appearing in all sixteen regular season games are less than slim. They will undoubtedly need to rely on the balance of this unit at various times this season.
Fortunately, the Lions’ defensive line is stocked with the kind of versatile players that head coach Matt Patricia craves. Flowers, for example, is nominally an edge player, but he can easily slide inside on passing downs.
At over 300 pounds, Daniels tends to make his bones playing inside, but Detroit likely won’t hesitate to bump him to the outside/5-technique position to maximize his pass rushing ability. Expect to see him move up and down the line as well.
Hand’s ailment is the most concerning setback, though no updates on his condition had arisen at press time. He is arguably the most versatile member of the group. Daniels has a similar profile to Hand, and could act as another solid mentor for the young lineman while using his versatility to make up for any missed time that Hand may endure.
So while the wait continues for the Lions’ dangerous defensive line to all take the field together, rest assured that the unit is in a much better position than this time a year ago. It will also prove beneficial when the inevitable war of attrition takes its toll on NFL rosters during the season.
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