Detroit Lions: Who are the X-Factors on defense this year?

Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
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Tracy Walker, Detroit Lions
Tracy Walker, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Overall Defensive X-Factor: Tracy Walker

Trey Flowers is pretty clearly the best individual player on the defense at this point. However, Flowers isn’t a guy who puts up huge statistics and seems to quietly go about his business on the field, rather than being a guy that the others rally around.

The most naturally gifted is Jeff Okudah, though asking him to immediately be the savior of one of the worst Lions defenses in franchise history seems like too much to ask at this point. Okudah at bare minimum is pegged by scouts to be a productive NFL starter for years, but right off the bat is more of a learning process for cornerbacks than positions like running back or defensive end seem to be.

For the sheer number of players at linebacker, my gut feeling is still that they’re more or less interchangeable. None of them is Pro Bowl quality from what I’ve seen, and at the end of the day I don’t see any of them truly standing out among the rest or providing a massive spark to the defense.

That leaves me with Tracy Walker. Walker checks off a lot of boxes for the type of player that can lift an entire unit:

  • Young but also experienced. Was the first Lions defensive back since Louis Delmas in 2010 to lead the team in tackles.
  • Popular with teammates. You know how there’s certain guys that everyone just gets a little more amped for when they make a big play? Walker seems to be one of those players.
  • Versatility. Making consistent tackles, big hits, tackled for less forcing a turnover here and there, Walker has shown that he can contribute to the defense in a lot of ways.

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In rebuilding the Lions defense, the play of Walker in his third pro season will have a major say in just how solid of a foundation they will have.