Lions Defense and Special Teams Depth Chart Projections for Week 1

Less than two weeks remain until the start of the regular season, and the Lions must reduce their roster to just 53 players. Given that I already shared my projections for the offense, it is time to address some of the concerns with the defense and, of course, the kicker competition. Here is how I anticipate the Lions’ defense and special teams to look going into Kansas City.

Defensive Ends- Aidan Hutchinson, John Cominsky, Charles Harris, James Houston, Josh Paschal, Romeo Okwara
Although I expect the Lions to open the season with six defensive ends, I wouldn’t be shocked if they only brought five. It was simple to choose Hutchinson, Cominsky, Houston, Paschal, and Harris, but the 6th spot came down to the Okwara brothers. Romeo has promise, and I chose him because of what he can provide the team when he is available. Due to injuries, he hasn’t been able to have a season exactly like 2020, but when healthy, he is a vital part of the defensive line. In week 1, Julian played quite well against the Giants, but he played badly in week 2 against Jacksonville. Campbell has stated that consistency is the main quality he seeks in Julian, so despite the fact he played well in Week 1, Week 2 may have cost him a roster spot.

Defensive Tackles- Alim McNeill, Isaiah Buggs, Brodric Martin, Levi Onwuzurike
Defensive tackle is the Lions’ biggest weakness, although it was quite obvious who they would keep in that position. The four guys I chose were McNeill, Buggs, Martin, and Onwuzurike, with the possibility that they could shift certain defensive ends to the interior. Although it will be fascinating to watch how Brodric Martin develops, McNeill and Buggs are most likely going to be the starts. Martin was chosen by the Lions in the third round, and in training camp, he has been performing admirably against the run. His role will likely grow as the season progresses, but for now, he will only see a little amount of action. Another player to watch for improvement is McNeill. He is anticipated to make a significant improvement and develop into the man Detroit is hoping for to bolster the defensive line after having a few solid games last season. Levi fared badly in his first season and suffered an injury before last season, thus he has yet to shown any promise. Although it is hoped that he will be able to play for the most of this year, it is yet unclear how well he will perform. Paschal or Cominsky moving inside in certain circumstances wouldn’t surprise me, but I anticipate that they will play primarily on the ends.

Linebackers- Alex Anzalone, Jack Campbell, Derrick Barnes, Malcolm Rodriguez, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Anthony Pittman
The Lions have made significant improvements at linebacker over the past several years, and it’s beginning to appear like they may be successful. Anzalone, Campbell, Barnes, Rodriguez, Reeves-Maybin, and Pittman are the six I have them keeping. Jacko Campbell was selected by the Lions with the 18th overall pick in this year’s draft, and he’s already looking like an excellent choice. It appears that he and Anzalone, who they signed this year, will be the starters. Anzalone had one of the greatest seasons of his career last year, and if he can continue to play that well, he can be a fantastic partner for Campbell. Derrick Barnes will take third place in the lineup, which many people will find shocking. Many would anticipate Rodrigo to win the 3rd spot after the excellent rookie season he had last year, but Barnes has showed significant growth during camp this year. Campbell has commended him several times, commenting on how much better he appears than at the beginning of last season. Rodrigo will start in the fourth position, but I believe he still sees some action. All four linebackers will receive a fair amount of playing time since the Lions, in my opinion, will cycle them all. Reeves-Maybin and Pittman complete the five and six, and even though they won’t see much, if any, action at linebacker, both of them should play significant roles on special teams.

Cornerbacks- Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, Brian Branch, Jerry Jacobs, Starling Thomas V, Will Harris
In this offseason, the cornerback position received significant attention. The starting corners for the Lions will be completely different as they added Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley in free agency and traded Jeff Okudah to the Falcons in exchange for a fifth-round pick. Branch, Jacobs, Thomas V, and Harris are the other 4 player I have making the cut. Branch has been outstanding in training camp this year, and many consider him to be Detroit’s second-best defender right now. Branch, who is expected to start at the nickel, has a great chance to contribute significantly to Detroit’s success this season. One of Brad Holmes’ best undrafted free agent signings throughout his time has turned out to be Jerry Jacobs. Jacobs, who had a fantastic season last year, will probably get plenty of action, especially if Moseley isn’t ready for the start of the season. Another undrafted free agent, Starling Thomas V, has excelled in camp this year and has shown why he should be included on the team. He has been highly effective in training camp and the preseason and will be a reliable corner on this team. Campbell really enjoys Harris as a player, and despite not having the best camp, he can be a very valuable nickelback and special teamer.

Safeties- CJ Gardner-Johnson, Kerby Joseph, Tracy Walker
Safety is Detroit’s top defensive strength this season. CJ Gardner-Johnson replaced DeShon Elliott, who left the team. CJGJ, who was first in the league in interceptions last season despite playing in only 12 games, will make a significant effect right away on defense. He will be paired with Kerby Joseph, a player who had a fantastic rookie season. Last year, Joseph had 6 forced turnovers, three of which were intercepting Aaron Rodgers. He is anticipated to make a significant improvement in year 2 and may perhaps develop into one of the league’s top safeties. The last safety I have making the team, Tracy Walker, who I believe will take a step back this year. Walker is unlikely to be a starter, but he will be a tremendous veteran and mentor anyway. He is a fantastic presence to have around and has the potential to be a great team leader. The safety room is really strong this year, so I’m simply not sure how much playing time he will receive. Nevertheless, I still expect him to see action this year.

Special Teams- Riley Patterson, Jack Fox, Scott Daly
Riley Patterson will come out on top in the kicker matchup in Special Teams, which comes last. Since Patterson has been more reliable, Detroit has chosen him to kick when just one player is asked. Nothing really needs to be said about Fox other than the fact that he is one of the league’s top punters. The long snapper position was thought to go to Jake McQuaide, but it appears that Scott Daly will remain the long snapper for another year. The special teams in Detroit are among the best in the NFL, and I don’t anticipate that to change at all this season.

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