Playing time by default for a late-round pick?
Defense was expected to be the theme of the Detroit Lions draft, yet it wasn’t. However, Bob Quinn thinks he may have found a late contributor or two. Only time will tell if he was truly right, but there is one player that as of this moment could be in line for plenty of playing time.
The Lions used their sixth-round pick to select Utah nose-tackle John Penisini. A player almost no one had heard of because the only Utah defensive linemen that had received any attention where end Bradlee Anae and nose-tackle Leki Fotu.
Yet physically, Penisini is what head coach Matt Patricia is looking for in a nose-tackle, given what was left by the time the Lions were on the clock in the sixth-round. Penisini, at 6 foot 1 inch and 318 pounds, is a powerful, heavy-handed player that can anchor the middle of the line.
He will have to learn how to play in the NFL on the fly with no offseason to give him a head start, but if we look at the Lions roster as of this moment, former New England Patriot Danny Shelton is the only other nose-tackle of note on the roster.
This means that Penisini could very well be walking into more playing time than any of us might feel comfortable with. Sure the Lions have Nick Williams and can move players like Da’Shawn Hand, seventh-round pick Jashon Cornell and even Trey Flowers to the inside if they would like on passing downs, but they are pretty thin on proven nose-tackle talent for first and second down.
There is always the possibility that someone like John Atkins or Olive Sagapolu steps up and wins the minutes behind Shelton, but unless either of them takes a real step forward, they are basically on even ground with Penisini.
So the odds are pretty good that John Penisini, who none of us had heard of before the draft, might be playing steady minutes next season if for no other reason than lack of depth in the middle of the defensive line.
That means unless Bob Quinn signs an experienced free agent or two to fill out the defensive line, Matt Patricia will not only be on the hot seat but have to turn players like Penisini into productive role players or face the music.