Detroit Lions: 53-man roster prediction prior to season opener

Detroit Lions (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions
Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

Defensive Line

In: (7) Danny Shelton, Nick Williams, Da’Shawn Hand, John Penisini, Trey Flowers, Romeo Okwara, Kevin Strong

Out: Frank Herron, Olive Sagapolu, Albert Huggins, Will Clarke, Kevin Wilkins

Rationale: The Lions’ defensive line was a disappointing mess in 2019, but it remains to be seen how much the changes that they have made will help. We have the Lions hanging onto seven total front-line defenders, which includes interior players and defensive ends.

Shelton takes over as the starting nose tackle after a career year in 2019 with the New England Patriots. He won’t offer much in the pass-rush department, but he should help anchor the middle of the defense against the run. He played less than half of the Patriots’ defensive snaps last year with the team often in the lead. The Lions would be just fine with that again.

Williams started five games for the Chicago Bears in a breakout 2019 and could be on track to start alongside Shelton. The Lions got little disruption from their interior linemen last year and will be depending on Williams to help rectify that.

Hand will also be counted on to play an big role. Looking to shake the injury-prone tag after playing in just 16 games over his first two years, he is the key member of this unit. His ability to play anywhere up front, split double teams and disrupt the pocket underscores the importance of him staying on the field.

Behind them, Penisini could find snaps hard to come by as he learns the nose spot behind Shelton, and Strong is back after an underwhelming rookie season. He could be more comfortable in year two.

Flowers quietly had a solid first year in Detroit despite the unit’s overall struggles. He’ll likely never be a double-digit sack producer, but his leadership and all-out effort are crucial for the defense. Okwara fills the primary reserve role on the edge, though he and Flowers should see time together when the Lions go with their “NASCAR” set on clear passing downs.