The Detroit Lions have been labeled as one of the most intriguing teams heading into the 2023 NFL season. The Lions finished the 2022 campaign with a 9-8 record, winning eight of their final 10 games, including a victory over the eventual Super Bowl champions. With some money to spend in free agency and five Top 100 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, the Lions are poised to take the next step. According to Pro Football Focus, the Lions are the “best fit” for former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
Why it Matters for the Detroit Lions
While the team's offense was strong last season, the defense needs help on all three levels. Vander Esch could step in and be an immediate upgrade at linebacker, playing alongside Malcolm Rodriguez. For the Lions to truly take the next step and contend for a Super Bowl, they are going to have to continue to add pieces to the defensive side of the ball. A veteran like Vander Esch could end up being just what the doctor ordered.
What PFF has to say about Leighton Vander Esch being a fit for the Lions
Here is what Pro Football Focus has to say about Vander Esch being a fit for the Lions.
Pairing Vander Esch’s size over the middle with rookie sixth-round Hard Knocks wunderkind Malcolm Rodriguez, who is undersized but makes up for it with his tenacity, could be a solid pairing at off-ball linebacker for the Lions if Alex Anzalone departs in free agency.
The former first-rounder had his best season since his rookie campaign, missing a career-low 6.5% of his tackles and allowing just 0.49 yards per coverage snap, which led all off-ball linebackers in 2022.
Leighton Vander Esch Inside the Numbers
During his 2022 season with the Cowboys, Vander Esch posted the following numbers:
- 14 games played
- 90 tackles
- 4 tackles for loss
- 0 sacks
- 0 interceptions
The bottom line is that the Detroit Lions need help on defense, and Leighton Vander Esch could be a piece that would help take the team to the next level. The Lions are already generating buzz as a team that could make some noise in 2023, and if they land Vander Esch, they will be one step closer to realizing their potential. With some key additions, the Lions could very well make a run at the NFC North title, and even more, in 2023.
Absolutely sign Leighton Vander Esch! He is a leader, smart, calls the defensive signals for the Cowboys, dedicated pro athlete that Campbell can count on. Forget the injuries. They can happen to any player at any time. At 6’5″ 256lbs, that is some size we could use in the middle for once! Plus he can run people down!