Detroit Lions Defensive Roster Preview: Ends and Edge Rushers
Even with the addition of Trey Flowers in free agency, the Detroit Lions still saw limited impact from the edge defenders overall. Flowers was able to accrue seven sacks and over 20 quarterback hits, but Detroit got little production from the other top defensive end, Romeo Okwara. The senior Okwara managed only 1.5 sacks and just 10 hits on the quarterback.
While they did get decent production from JACK linebacker Devon Kennard in the form of seven sacks and 15 quarterback hits, the defensive depth was overall lacking last year. This year, things don’t look much, if any, better.
After moving on from Kennard, the Lions will probably look to a combination of Jarrad Davis, Jamie Collins, and Austin Bryant to replace him. Bryant may not be a reliable source though, as he has been oft-injured in his time in Detroit, and was just placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to start this season as well. If Bryant can’t get healthy anytime soon, he may find himself in real danger of losing his spot before the season is over.
Lastly, the Lions just drafted Julian Okwara out of Notre Dame in the 2020 NFL Draft. Okwara has the potential to be a complete edge defender who can be equally successful against the run and the pass. Though he is young and inexperienced, his flashes in college show a player who can develop into a stand-out stand-up JACK linebacker at the NFL level.
The Lions have just one reliable player here and the depth is also largely unproven and not deep. Because of the way the Lions defense plays, only one defensive end will usually be on the field at one time with a linebacker taking the spot opposite him on the other side of the defense. That’s why there usually aren’t many traditional defensive ends on the roster, as well as the fact that Hand can play all over the line, including on the outside.