Detroit Lions defensive line
The defensive front in 2015 consisted of Ezekiel Ansah, Haloti Ngata, Caraun Reid, and Jason Jones. The players who played the most behind the main starters were Darryl Tapp, Devin Taylor, Gabe Wright, Tyrunn Walker, Andre Fluellen, and C.J. Wilson.
This was a good year for end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, who had a difficult time staying healthy and on the field despite being extremely athletic. Ansah was a top-five selection in 2013 but played sporadically due to lingering injuries.
Ngata was near the end of his career, was signed to take departed Ndamukong Suh’s spot, but still played well in somewhat limited reps on the interior of the line.
What is noteworthy about the rest of the rotation is the absence of former first-round talent Nick Fairley and the number of draft picks used on this group. That’s a theme that hasn’t gone away.
If you aren’t underperforming, are you even a Lions player at all?
On paper, the current depth chart should be very good at stopping the run but need help generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Well, they aren’t good at either thanks in part to injuries and conservative play-calling. Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, Trey Flowers, Romeo Okwara, Da’Shawn Hand, Mike Daniels, and Austin Bryant ought to be a formidable gang of linemen to block.
To say that this has been disappointing as a potential strength of the defense is an understatement. Harrison, Robinson, Hand, Daniels, Bryant, and Okwara have all missed significant time in 2019.
What is missing from this unit is pass-rush ability. Trey Flowers is a better run defender than sack artist but is easily the best pass rusher along the Detroit Lions front. Hard to give a definitive grade when so many players have been injured.
Verdict: Better but lacking playmakers
Flowers has taken a lot of heat due to the sizeable free-agent deal that brought him to Motown. He has largely produced well and is a more than capable player. However, he needs help to get consistent pressure from his end position.
Hand was expected to provide some of that, as was Bryant when he got healthy, and Okwara, too. It is safe to say that the unit just lacks players with elite burst and athleticism who can get around the edge. Matt Patricia’s defense is also supposed to utilize “Jack” linebackers blitzing off of the edge to augment the line pressure but the Lions Jack linebackers are very average-or-lower pass-rushers overall.