3 Positions The Detroit Lions Can Still Improve

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Detroit Lions

Entering the 2022 season, the Detroit Lions should be much improved over last season. They added high upside youngsters in Jameson Williams and Aidan Hutchinson, plus the rest of their highly graded draft class.

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Despite the expected improvements, the Lions do have position groups that still need help. In free agency, the Lions added DeShon Elliott and DJ Chark, who should be solid starters at positions of weakness the years before. Finally, the Lions should improve with an extra year of experience to one of the youngest rosters in the NFL.

The Detroit Lions Need To Add Safety Depth

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Another weakness of the defense last season was the safety spot next to Tracy Walker. The Lions brought in DeShon Elliott to fill that starting role. Elliott plays at a starter level but has missed ten games in two of his three seasons. With that injury history, the Lions must have contingency plans behind him.

Third-round rookie Kerby Joseph will likely play in 3 safety looks and fill in if Elliott goes down. Joseph has tremendous potential, but he recently converted to safety from receiver and needs time to season his game. If Joseph is not quite ready, the Lions will be relying on hybrid corner/safeties Ifeatu Melifonwu and Will Harris or special teamer CJ Moore.

Potential Targets: Tashaun Gipson, Jeff Heath

The big-name free agent in the safety market is Landon Collins, but don’t expect the Lions to pursue the big-ticket safety as he would demand a long-term, big-money contract. Instead, the Lions could pursue a cheaper veteran on a short-term contract.

Two options would be Tashaun Gipson and Michigan native Jeff Heath. Both players are definitely in the twilight of their careers, but they would provide value in the proper role. The veterans could be used to mentor Joseph and Melifonwu and step in if Elliot goes down with an injury.

The Detroit Lions Need To Improve At Linebacker

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For the past couple of years, linebackers have been the weakness of the Lions’ defense. Without any changes, this year should expect to be the same.

The Lions added Chris Board and Jarrad Davis in free agency, plus rookie Malcolm Rodriguez. Board has value as a coverage specialist but has never been an everyday player. As Lions fans know, Davis shouldn’t be counted on as an everyday player but as a situational specialist. As for Rodriguez, he definitely could become an every-down backer, but for now, he is an undersized sixth-round pick with warts in his game.

The two main holdovers from last year are Derrick Barnes and Alex Anzalone. Barnes is still relatively new in his transition to linebacker and needs to continue to develop before becoming a starter. Anzalone is an okay starter, nothing great but never too bad, and can be counted on when healthy.

As of today, the expectation would be Board and Anzalone getting a large chunk of the starter reps. Barnes and Rodriguez would rotate in and play in 3 linebacker sets, and Davis would be a situational defender.

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Potential Targets: Joe Schobert, Anthony Barr, K.J. Wright,

Luckily for the Lions, several talented free-agent linebackers remained unsigned.

Schobert and Barr make sense as targets if the Lions would like versatile 3-down backers who can be stop-gap starters if Board, Barnes, or Rodriguez aren’t quite ready. Schobert can do a little bit of everything but doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well. Barr is older but still can do a little bit of everything, cover, rush the passer, and stop the run.

The Lions have options if they would like to add to the linebacker room if their young players aren’t ready by the start of the year. If the Lions would like more of a run stopper and veteran presence, K.J. Wright makes a lot of sense. He has slowed with age but is still an asset in the run game and isn’t lost in coverage.

The Detroit Lions should look to add Tight End depth

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On the flip side, the Lions have top-end talent at tight end but lack in depth. T.J. Hockenson is one of the best tight ends in the league, but outside of him, the Lions don’t have much depth. Behind him are rookie James Mitchell and 2nd-year undrafted rookie Brock Wright.

Mitchell should become a solid receiving number 2, but rookie tight ends often struggle, and he is coming off an injury. Wright showed some things in limited reps last season, but he doesn’t block or receive well enough to be counted on behind Hockenson.

The Lions also added free agent Garrett Griffin from the Saints. Griffin is a blocking specialist who better profiles as a third tight end who can play more in run downs. The Lions have options behind T.J. Hockenson, who should be able to contribute in smaller roles. However, if the Lions would like to play two tight end sets or if Hockenson goes down, they could be in trouble.

Potential Targets: Kaden Smith, Chris Herndon, MyCole Pruitt

In free agency, there is not much high-end talent, but there are some solid pieces that could add depth. The three players above would slot in behind Hockenson as the second tight end. They are all solid blockers and receiving options but don’t do either well enough to be considered a starting tight end. If Mitchell comes along slowly or someone gets hurt, the Detroit Lions should pursue one of these players to add depth.

The Detroit Lions look to be much improved in many areas heading into next season. They have found improvements in all of their main weaknesses, and the growth of the young players will help as well.

However, the Lions still lack depth which is crucial in the NFL with the number of injuries during a season. If they can add depth at linebacker, safety, and tight end, it should greatly help the rest of the roster and give the Lions the best chance to succeed next season.

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