What will John Penisini’s role be with the Detroit Lions during his rookie season?
With the second installment of my new series ‘Rookie Roles’, where I’m shedding light on how I see the roles for all the 2020 Detroit Lions rookies. We have the second to last pick, DT, John Penisini.
With the 197th pick in the sixth-round, Penisini’s long journey to the NFL was finally over. One that included a stint at Snow Junior College, then sitting out the 2016 season after transferring to Utah, then playing next to a more coveted DT prospect in Leki Fotu.
2017 is when John got his first action in the Pac-12. Eventually becoming the starter in his 2018 junior season. After which he was named to the second-team All Pac-12 team in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
You can expect Penisini to line up for Detroit exactly where he did for Utah … across from the center as a nose tackle. He’s a two-gap, run-stuffing, space-eater, even being a little on the short side at 6-foot-1.
Defensively, the Lions primarily use odd-fronts with a nose tackle anywhere from the 0-3 technique. This will be Penisini’s role. This role comes with some new blood up top as former starter Damon Harrison is out and newly acquired, fresh from the motherland of New England, Danny Shelton is in.
Expect the Lions to only keep a couple true nose tackles on the final roster
So who else is in competition for backup duties? I mean, there are a couple of guys in John Atkins and Olive Sagapolu … but it’s really only Atkins.
Atkins was an undrafted free agent in 2018, played sparingly his rookie season, but actually ended up playing in 12 games and starting six in 2019. Though that was due to lack of bodies more so than earned playing time.
It’s hard to tell whether Penisini went underlook playing alongside Fotu and DE Bradley Anae, or produced because he had it easy playing alongside the two.
From what I’ve seen he can really hold his own up the middle as you never saw him give up ground … just what head coach Matt Patricia is looking for his anchor on defense.