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 defensive line
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Detroit Lions defensive line

While it’s easy to get caught up in the new-year, new-team positive outlook, the interior of the defensive line has been almost completely overhauled. Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, and Mike Daniels, who comprised the main depth at what was thought to be a strength coming into last year, are all gone. Danny Shelton from the Patriots and Nick Williams from the Chicago Bears were the big signings this offseason on the interior.

The starters up front are up for grabs. Danny Shelton and Trey Flowers are the only names that are set in stone as major contributors. Shelton at nose tackle and Flowers at the down-defensive end position. Romeo Okwara, Da’Shawn Hand, and third-round pick Julian Okwara (yes, they’re brothers), are sure to get time manning the other end spot with Austin Bryant, Frank Herron, Jonathon Wynn, and rookie Jashon Cornell vying for special teams and rotational backup duties.

The other candidates at tackle, where a rotation will be used frequently, are John Atkins, Kevin Strong, Olive Sagapolu, and draftee John Penisini, who will be battling it out for two to three spots behind Shelton. Of note, game-day roster sizes increased from 53 to 55 allowing the Lions to keep extra players in any area of need.

Shelton only played 48 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps in 2019 according to Pro Football Reference and it wouldn’t be shocking to see at least three men share those duties this year in Detroit. Assuming that two of Atkins, Strong, Sagapolu, and Penisini are up to it, the rotation does lessen the need to have great players inside. Flowers also only played about 62 percent of the Detroit defense’s snaps, although he led the team on that side of the ball.