Detroit Lions roster depth: Are they better on defense?

Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Jamie Collins, Detroit Lions
Jamie Collins, Detroit Lions (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

Detroit Lions’ linebackers

Outside (edge) ‘backers

Outside linebackers are the edge players in this scheme. They are supposed to contain plays and get pressure on the quarterback. They usually line up outside of the tackles or over tight ends to rush the C or D gaps of the offense.

The defining feature of most 3-man fronts is that it allows the defensive caller to bring pressure from any number of places; it can come from either edge or from up the middle and still only utilize four men to generate pressure. The offense cannot know who the fourth man is (or if there are more) until after the snap of the ball.

Outside linebacker candidates:  Julian Okwara, Austin Bryant, Jahlani Tavai, Charles Harris, Jamie Collins, Sr., Robert McCray

Heading into the offseason, the Detroit Lions were dreadful at linebacker, with only Collins looking like he belonged in a starting lineup. Jalen Reeves-Maybin has made steady progress but has never garnered starter reps. On the inside of the defense, another upgrade was made during the draft with the selection of Derrick Barnes in round four.

Inside ‘backers

The versatile Alex Anzalone was signed to bolster linebacker depth and can play both positions but is probably going to mostly line up inside with Barnes in base sets; the Lions could move Collins or Tavai inside, as well, since both men have experience at multiple positions. Anzalone has had difficulty staying on the field during his stint in New Orleans.

Anzalone, the main addition from Glenn’s old team, hasn’t ever started more than the 9 games he played in 2020 for the Saints.

Inside linebacker candidates: Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes (R), Jamie Collins, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Anthony Pittman, Shaun Dion Hamilton