Summer is nearly here and the Detroit Lions, under the close watch of new head coach Matt Patricia, have started making preparations for the 2018 season. You can be sure Patricia’s overall philosophy, both offensively and defensively, will differ from former head coach Jim Caldwell, but the Lions will have plenty of familiar faces returning along with some new ones.
With OTAs in full swing, we thought it would be fun to take a look at what the Lions starting lineup should look like heading into Training Camp. Let’s start off on the offensive side of the ball.
Offensively speaking, the Lions have a chance to be one of the most explosive in the NFL, IF they can get the running game going. Though it is easier said than done, on paper, both the offensive line and running back stable should be improved in 2018.
Quarterback – Matthew Stafford
This is obviously a no-brainer as Matthew Stafford is the man behind center. The only competition in training camp will be between Jake Rudock and Matt Cassell for the backup position. At this point, I would give the nod to Cassell.
Running Backs – LeGarrette Blount
LeGarrette Blount should be penciled in as the Lions starting running back in 2018 but which players join him in the running back stable is still up in the air. With Nick Ballore moving to fullback, will the Lions have a need to keep either Zach Zenner or Dwayne Washington around? Will Ameer Abdullah be on the roster when the season begins? Those are a couple of questions in which we will have to wait to hear the answers.
Wide Receivers – Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay
With Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay lining up for the Lions, you can bet Matthew Stafford will be poised to have another big season.
Tight End – Luke Willson
Eric Ebron is long gone which means newly signed Luke Willson and Michael Roberts will battle for the starting tight end position. Though Roberts will be given every opportunity to win the job, I believe Willson’s experience will help him to win the gig.
Offensive Line – (LT) Taylor Decker, (LG) Frank Ragnow, (C) Graham Glasgow, (RG) T.J. Lang, (RT) Rick Wagner
In my opinion, Graham Glasgow is a better center than he is a guard and rookie Frank Ragnow has the ability to play either position at a high level. When the season starts, I expect to see Ragnow at guard and Glasgow at center.
Let’s face it, coming up with a starting defensive lineup is not exactly easy because we do not really know what formation Matt Patricia will go with. I can see him starting some games with five cornerbacks and two linebackers, some with three linebackers and four cornerbacks, and sometimes he may roll with a 3-4-4 defense. It will just depend on the situation. For this piece, I chose to go with a 4-2-5.
Secondary – (CB) Darius Slay, (CB) Teez Tabor, (CB) Nevin Lawson, (S) Glover Quinn, (S) Quandre Diggs
This is a group that could have many different combinations depending on the scenario. If the Lions choose to go with five defensive backs, the players listed above should get first shot. Teez Tabor has been solid in minicamp and has a real shot of working his way into the starting group.
Defensive Line – (DE) Ezekiel Ansah, (DE) Kerry Hyder, (DT) Sylvester Williams, (DT) A’Shawn Robinson
When the Lions line up with four defensive linemen, they will likely start off with Ansah and Hyder on the outside and Williams and Robinson at defensive tackle. Patricia will also go with a 3-4 from time to time where Williams would be out.
Linebackers – Jarrad Davis, Devon Kennard
The hope is that second-year linebacker Jarrad Davis takes a big step forward in 2018 and becomes a leader on the Lions defense. Newly acquired Devon Kennard is a linebacker first and foremost but he has made it clear that he is more than willing to line up wherever Matt Patricia asks him to.
When it comes to special teams, the Lions have one of the best units in football as Prater, Martin, Muhlbach, and Agnew are among the best in the league.
Kicker – Matt Prater
Punter – Sam Martin
Long Snapper – Don Muhlbach
Kick/Punt Return – Jamal Agnew