Did Detroit Lions defense improve enough for 2020?

Detroit Lions (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Lions
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Detroit Lions linebackers

We can’t say that the other units look to be as improved as the secondary is. While swapping Devon Kennard for Jamie Collins is a win in the athleticism column and should help the pass coverage, similar upgrades were not found for Mike linebacker Jarrad Davis or at Will linebacker for Christian Jones.

That’s not to say that Quinn didn’t address those linebacker positions on the Detroit Lions roster. There will be more and better competition for the backup spots beyond Jahlani Tavai and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. There is a glut of options, to be honest, although none are clear upgrades over any starter. If you look at the depth chart from the Ourlads website, you can see that five other linebackers are there to push for reserve spots or special teams.

Elijah Lee, Anthony Pittman, Jason Cabinda, Christian Sam, and Reggie Ragland have been added to address deficiencies in the talent, coverage, and tackling of the linebacker unit overall. The development of Jahlani Tavai coming into his second year and how Jarrad Davis responds to not having the fifth-year option picked up on his rookie contract will decide a lot about the quality of the linebackers for the 2020 season.

Davis has always been more straight-line fast than agile and able to change direction quickly, always making him less likely to succeed in pass coverage or within head coach Matt Patricia’s, New England Patriots style of defense. Davis has had the benefit of being the most athletic linebacker in Detroit over the past few seasons but Jamie Collins’ skill set matches the system better and should make him the top coverage linebacker.

Tavai, on the other hand, was eased into the Mike and Will linebacker spots playing the least amount of snaps of any major contributing linebacker. Devon Kennard led the way at playing almost 82 percent of snaps on defense, with Davis (57 percent), Jones (53 percent), and Tavai (52 percent) rounding out the snaps, from the Pro Football Reference website. A big challenge will be how he handles a bigger load of snaps if pressed into larger service.

Tavai may be forced to take the Mike role over if Davis does not return in 2021. Christian Jones signed an extension this offseason that has the potential to keep him a Detroit Lions player through the 2022 season but also has an out after 2020 with some dead cap money if they decide to part ways with the Will-Jack ‘backer. Here are his contract terms, if you get really bored, from Spotrac.