The last time the Detroit Lions made the playoffs was in 2016 but their last playoff win was in 1991. It is safe to say that the Lions fan base has not been happy since. 2018 was no different as the team went 6-10 under then first-year Head Coach and former New England Patriots Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia. There were some high spots to look at, as they did beat the Patriots in Week 3 as well as sweeping division rival Green Bay Packers. Still, the Lions have yet to get over the hump.

The first thing the Lions did was to boost the defense by signing former Super Bowl Champion Trey Flowers, Seattle Seahawks Cornerback Justin Coleman, and Green Bay Packers Defensive Tackle Mike Daniels. They also signed Danny Amendola and Jesse James to give QB Matthew Stafford some weapons on offense. As for the draft, they selected Iowa Tight End T.J. Hockenson in the first round while drafting Hawaii Linebacker Jahlani Tavai.

In addition, the team still has Kerryon Johnson, Kenny Golladay, and Marvin Jones Jr. on offense while Darius Slay, Jarrad Davis, Damon Harrison Sr., A’Shawn Robinson, De’Shawn Hand, and Miles Killebrew man the defense. Here are my position breakdowns, along with the projected starts and backups.

Quarterbacks

Credit: Paul Sancya/Getty Images
  • Starter: Matthew Stafford
  • Backups: Tom Savage
  • Preseason Cuts: David Fales, Josh Johnson

He may have his up and downs, but Stafford is still one of the better quarterbacks in the league. He’ll be under center once again as the starter heading into his 11th season. Savage has been on multiple teams as a backup throughout his career and given his experience, he’ll likely beat out Fales and Johnson for the backup role.

Running Backs

Credit: Tim Fuller/USA Today Sports
  • Starter: Kerryon Johnson
  • Backups: C.J. Anderson, Zach Zenner, Ty Johnson, Nick Bawden
  • Preseason Cuts: Justin Stockton, Mark Thompson

An injury hurt the second half of his season but Johnson looks to be a future bell cow for Detroit. I think he is one of the young running backs you should keep an eye on. Anderson showed that he can still play in the league after a nice short run with the Los Angeles Rams last season. He’ll provide a nice power back option in the backfield.

Zenner has been with the team since 2015 and will likely make the roster once again as a backup and a Special Teamer. Johnson, a sixth-round pick, looks to make the roster as a speed back option. Bawden makes the roster as the fullback when needed.

Wide Receivers

Credit: Detroit Lions Website
  • Starters: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola
  • Backups: Travis Fulgham, Tommylee Lewis, Brandon Powell
  • Preseason Cuts: Deontez Alexander, Jonathan Duhart, Andy Jones, Tom Kennedy, Chris Lacy
  • Out for the Year: Jermaine Kearse

Golladay had a nice 2018 with the team, hauling in 70 catches for 1,063 yards and five touchdowns. He’ll look to be the lead man once again and should put up higher numbers as the number one receiver. Jones had some injury problems last season but is still a solid starter opposite Golladay. Amendola will take over the slot position and is a perfect complement to the tall duo of Golladay and Jones.

Fulgham is a sixth-round pick who has a lot of potential to be a future starter with the team. I originally had Kearse making the roster but suffered a broken leg during the Week 1 preseason game against the New England Patriots, so he will be out for all of 2019. With that, I have Lewis and Powell making the team as contributors to Special Teams and some offensive formations.

Tight Ends

Credit: Raj Mehta/USA Today Sports
  • Starter: T.J. Hockenson
  • Backups: Jesse James, Isaac Nauta, Logan Thomas
  • Preseason Cuts: Jerome Cunningham, Austin Traylor

Hockenson was Detroit’s first-round pick this past draft and looks to be a star tight end right out of the gate. He’ll give Stafford a nice security option in the passing game. James was signed from the Pittsburgh Steelers and forms a solid duo at the tight end position.

Nauta is a solid block while former Virginia Tech QB Thomas makes the team as a Special Teamer.

Offensive Line

Credit: Getty Images
  • Starters: Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Tyrell Crosby, Ricky Wagner
  • Backups: Joe Dahl, Beau Benzschawel, Andrew Donnal
  • Preseason Cuts: Leo Koloamatangi, Micah St. Andrew, Kenny Wiggins, Oday Aboushi, Luke Bowanko, Matt Nelson, Ryan Pope

The Lions have a solid young core on the offensive line. Decker, Ragnow, Glasgow, and Crosby are young starters while Wagner is a veteran that completes the group.

Dahl, Benzschawel, and Donnal provide nice depth on the line to protect Stafford. Overall, a solid group heading into the season.

Defensive Line

Credit: Getty Images
  • Starters: Trey Flowers, Damon Harrison Sr., Mike Daniels, Romeo Okwara
  • Backups: A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand, John Atkins, P.J. Johnson, Austin Bryant
  • Preseason Cuts: Eric Lee, Mitchell Loewen, Jonathan Wynn, Fred Jones, Ray Smith, Kevin Strong
  • Out for the Year: Darius Kilgo

Detroit really went all out in boosting their defensive line. The team signed Flowers and Daniels while already having guys like Harrison, Okwara, Robinson, and Hand. The latter two will likely be backups that could easily start on other teams but bring some nice depth to the defensive tackle position.

Bryant and Johnson are two 2019 rookies who may see the field and could compete for snaps later in the season. Overall, this is one of the best defensive line rotations in the NFL.

Linebackers

Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
  • Starters: Jarrad Davis, Devon Kennard, Christian Jones
  • Backups: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Jahlani Tavai, Steve Longa
  • Preseason Cuts: Malik Carney, Garret Dooley, Anthony Pittman
  • Out for the Year: Tre Lamar

Davis has had a solid two-year run as the starter for the former 2017 first-round pick. He is a fast linebacker that can stop the run while also providing pass coverage. Kennard and Jones will start at the outside positions to form a nice trio of ‘backers.

Tavai is a person you should keep an eye on. He is an athletic linebacker taken in the second round this past draft and should push for a starting job during the season. Lamar, a former starter for Clemson, had a chance to be a Special Teamer but will miss the season due to injury.

Cornerbacks

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  • Starters: Darius Slay Jr., Justin Coleman
  • Backups: Rashaan Melvin, Jamal Agnew, Teez Tabor, Amani Oruwariye
  • Preseason Cuts: Johnathan Alston, Andre Chachere, Mike Ford, Jamar Summers, Dee Virgin

Slay is one of the best and consistent cornerbacks in the NFL. He’ll continue to be the starter during his tenure in The Motor City. Melvin and Coleman were added as free agents this offseason and will likely be fighting for the opposite corner spot, with the other taking over the nickel spot.

Agnew is a solid corner but excels in the kick/punt return game, so that is how he’ll get on the field. Fifth-round pick Oruwariye has the size to be a great corner in the league and could learn a lot from the veteran group. Tabor has struggled since entering the league and this preseason could be his last shot to make the team. Guys like Alston and Chachere could perform better to take the last corner spot over Tabor.

Safeties

Credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports
  • Starters: Quandre Diggs, Miles Killebrew
  • Backups: Tavon Wilson, Will Harris, Tracy Walker
  • Preseason Cuts: Andrew Adams, C.J. Moore, Charles Washington

The safety position will have a big hole to fill with the retirement of Glover Quinn but Diggs and Killebrew can make up for the loss.

Wilson is a former Patriot who will be a nice rotational and Special Teams player for Detroit. Harris and Walker will provide depth and help out in the defensive back rotation.

Specialists

Credit: Raj Mehta/USA Today Sports
  • Kicker: Matt Prater
  • Punter: Sam Martin
  • Long Snapper: Don Muhlbach
  • Preseason Cuts: Ryan Santoso

Prater, Martin, and Muhlbach were all on the roster last season and much like the previous teams, this trio will likely stick together for another season. No changes here.

Yes, the Detroit Lions has struggled for years to make some noise in the playoffs but I think the future is bright for them. Stafford is still a great QB and having Johnson, Golladay, Jones, and Hockenson on the offense will give Stafford some nice options to throw to.

The defense I believe has a lot of potential, especially at the defensive line and having so much depth there. Davis will continue to make strides to hold down the middle while Slay, Coleman, and Killebrew form a nice secondary. The NFC North is one of the toughest divisions in the NFL right now but with consistent games and beating the teams they should this season, they could be fighting for a playoff spot towards the ends of the season.

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