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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Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions
Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Detroit Lions secondary

Corner the market

The Detroit Lions added some size to their roster by drafting Melifonwu, signing Quinton Dunbar, and adding size in their safety depth. The Cardiac Cats have routinely gotten burned by some of the large wide receivers in the division like Green Bay Packers star receiver, Davante Adams. Having a roster that is more physical is a necessity.

Returning starters Amani Oruwariye and former first-rounder, Jeff Okudah, need to play much better in 2021 for the defense to take a step towards respectability. Several cap cuts were made at the position when Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman were waived due to ineffective play and large salaries.

Cornerback candidates: Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah, Ifeatu Melifonwu (R), Mike Ford, Corn Elder, Quinton Dunbar, Jerry Jacobs, AJ Parker

Safety concerns

Lastly, the safeties include defensive hybrid players, who are part safety and part outside linebacker; these players play near the line of scrimmage and are often employed when a 3-man front goes to a “nickel” formation, five defensive backs (with three linebackers).

Many defenses spend the majority of their time in a nickel look or some even put in an additional defensive back, creating a “dime” package (six defensive backs, two linebackers). These personnel packages have become commonplace due to the NFL’s use of three or four wide receivers in their base offenses.

What we would suspect is that Melifonwu is going to be integral to the nickel package along with the development of Will Harris. The third-round investment of Melifonwu says “needed piece” just as Onwuzurike, McNeil, and Barnes did at their slots in the draft.

The Lions roster lost some depth at safety, too. The returning members are Tracy walker and Will Harris from last year’s starters. Walker was hurt and Harris did not do well in five starts. This is undoubtedly a position group that is in need of help unless Harris and/ or Melifonwu can improve the secondary greatly from ’20 to ’21.

Safety candidates: Tracy Walker, Will Harris, Dean Marlowe, CJ Moore, Bobby Price, Godwin Igwebuike, Jalen Elliott

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Final thoughts

Overall, the Detroit Lions defense has depth concerns at several places but there just weren’t enough fingers to plug all of the proverbial holes in the dam. The unit should see better play out of the line with the roster upgrades there, for sure. Lingering concerns regarding the safeties, linebackers, and cornerbacks could provide potential stumbling blocks to seeing progress, though.

Hopefully, when combined with a couple of key signings at various positions, we can start to see an improved defense. The good news is that there is nowhere to go but up, Lions fans.