Could a breakout get the Lions into the playoffs?
Trey Flowers season started slowly last year, but by the second half he was playing like Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia hoped he would. Unfortunately, he was the Lions only defensive lineman capable of pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Every team needs multiple players that can be counted on to bring the heat.
The Lions were running on empty after Flowers.
We are hoping that rookie Julian Okwara can bring a spark off the edge and perhaps help push his brother Romeo to a better season as well. But there is one other player that has the ability to contribute off the edge and a player I think has a chance to break-out this season and would probably be the most important break-out the Lions could have; Austin Bryant.
The former Clemson Tiger spent the majority of his rookie season last year watching from the sidelines with an injury. But he is very mature at the young age of 23 and works as hard as anyone else on the team.
Even when he was injured last year he showed up with his notebook at every meeting, regularly picked the brains of his veteran teammates, and did everything he could to improve himself mentally.
When he did make it on to the field in the last few games he didn’t set the world on fire as he learned the speed of the game on the run as any rookie does, but he will enter his second season in a prime position to break-out, make a name for himself, and give the Lions much needed help off the edge.
His contributions may not be obvious in the form of 10 or more sacks, but the key is if he can provide consistent pressure. That’s a lot to ask of a second-year player, however, he had eight sacks as a senior at Clemson when he played most of the season through a painful torn pectoral muscle.
It’s very easy to say ‘what if he had been healthy?’ Yet quite frankly to be able to be consistently productive under such circumstances means that he has enough ability to be productive in the NFL. Perhaps more than just productive.
Only time will tell the whole story, but one gets the impression that if the other players on the roster play at or near the level expected of them, Bryant breaking out could be enough to help push the defense into positive territory.
Will it allow then to take over the NFC North and go on a playoff run? I think that there would need to be a few more break-outs on both sides of the ball for that to happen, but if Austin Bryant can contribute to a consistent pass-rush rotation, then that alone should make the Lions improved enough to have a chance to make a run at the playoffs.