2021 NFC North preview: How do the Detroit Lions stack up?

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell (Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell (Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press) /
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Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions
Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions defense, Part II

The secondary has a lot of questions to answer with Tracy Walker and Will Harris looking set to start as the free and strong safeties. Walker has always played well when healthy but appeared shaken by the treatment he received last year; Harris hasn’t earned a lot of time on the field up until now after being a third-round pick.

Behind them are Dean Marlowe, C.J. Moore, Bobby Price, and Godwin Igwebuike. The coaching staff has verbally expressed a lot of confidence in this group, which has surprised many pundits. Most Lions fans have assumed they will add players here that can push Walker, Harris, or both.

At cornerback and in the slot, Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, and Corn Elder are slated as starters. Melifonwu (6-3, 210) was clearly drafted (third-round) to play sooner than later as a bigger cornerback option, perhaps in a slot or matched up versus bigger wideouts in nickel or dime packages. The starting unit has been very unpredictable, a big project for Pleasant and Glenn.

Quinton Dunbar (6-2, 202) was added to give Melifonwu competition for that role and could delay the rookie getting many snaps if he needs time to acclimate. Either way, the Lions front office clearly sees getting bigger in their secondary as a mandate. Mike Ford offers flexibility and size to the unit, primarily as a reserve but one who is capable of spot starts with decent cover skills.

The secondary is getting bigger and trying to figure out what they really have. The groups are thin with very few settled positions and nearly all of the defense is still playing catch-up to the Packers, Vikings, and Bears after the historically horrible production of the last campaign.