Detroit Lions are looking at all opportunities to build depth along the defensive line

Posted Mar 30, 2013

With a need to re-establish the depth of the defensive line, the Lions will look to the draft and the possibility of drafting a pass rusher

Ziggy AnsahDE Ziggy Ansah
The talent and depth across the defensive line was one of the big strengths for the Lions at this point in the offseason last year.

Two experienced defensive ends in Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch manned the edges with talented prospects Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson in reserve.

Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Corey Williams and Sammie Hill formed arguably the deepest defensive tackle rotation in the league.

What a difference a year makes.

Suh and Fairley remain at defensive tackle (and that's a formable combination) but Hill now plays for the Tennessee Titans and Williams remains a free agent.

Avril and Vanden Bosch are no longer with the team and Jackson, like Williams, is still a free agent. The team replaced Avril with a talented player in Jason Jones, but there are question marks remaining on the right side with Young and second year player Ronnell Lewis with no starting experience between them.

It’s no great secret the Lions need another pass rusher – or two – before training camp in August.

"Eventually (we're going to need another defensive end), but there are a lot of avenues," Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said.

Including next month's draft.

"I think every year you’re going to find pass rushers every step of the way," Schwartz said. "There’s going to be pass rushers in the first round, second round, third round ... we talked about Willie Young before, he was a seventh-round pick.

"You have to be careful saying, "we have to have a pass rusher.’ You draft a pass rusher that’s no good, just because he’s a pass rusher, you’re in the same spot. We’ve had this conversation before and we’re going to keep our philosophy the same when it comes to that."

This draft is very deep along the defensive line with nine defensive tackles and eight defensive ends receiving a grade of 80 or above by, which equates to outstanding (80-89) and rare (90-100).

"I think there are a lot of names that have been talked about early and I think there are going to be some names talked about later," Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said of the defensive line class.

"It’s a pretty deep class. We coached some of them at the Senior Bowl. Some juniors came out that are pretty good players, too. It’s a good group of guys. I think there are going to be a lot of good defensive lineman in this draft. We’ll keep looking and try to get better."

There’s always the potential for the Lions to bring back either Williams or Jackson, but depth along the defensive line is certainly an issue that still needs to be addressed.

"There’s still free agency, the draft, trades and training camp," Schwartz said. "There are a lot of opportunities to still be able to add guys.

"There is a sense of urgency with everything you do. but you also have to balance that with knowing there’s also a timeliness to this whole process of the offseason. As much as you want to do everything the first day, that’s not always the best course of action."