Training camp preview: defensive line

Posted Jul 20, 2014

The Lions have a nice mix of speed and power at both end and tackle.

On the roster – DE: Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones, Devin Taylor, Larry Webster, Darryl Tapp, Kashama Kalonji and George Johnson

On the roster – DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Andre Fluellen, Gregory Hickman and Xavier Proctor

Key Loss: DE Willie Young

Making the cut – DE: Ansah, Jones, Taylor, Tapp and Webster

On the bubble – DE: Kalonji and Johnson

Making the cut – DT: Suh, Fairley, Mosley, Reid

On the bubble – DT: Saddler-McQueen, Fluellen, Hickman and Proctor

Best Competition: Can anyway supplant the status quo?

Five defensive ends and four defensive tackles were kept on the Detroit Lions’ 53-man roster out of training camp last year. Now, this is a new coaching staff, and they might value numbers at each position differently, but going off last year’s numbers, the Lions seem pretty set at both spots with rookie draft picks Webster and Reid filling out the last spot of each group.

That’s not to say one of the players on the bubble can’t come in and wow coaches in camp, but it seems like a tall task making the roster outside of injury.

2013 Stats
Ziggy Ansah DE 14 32 7 8 11 2 0
Jason Jones DE 3 1 0 0 0 0 0
Devin Taylor DE 14 14 2 2.5 7 2 0
Darryl Tapp DE 11 9 2 1 1 0 0
*Larry Webster DE 12 48 15 12.5 9 1 2
*Kalonji Kashama DE 12 32 9 5.5 10 2 0
+George Johnson DE 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ndamukong Suh DT 16 49 9 5.5 20 1 0
Nick Fairley DT 15 34 9 6 19 1 2
C.J Mosley DT 16 16 0 0 4 1 1
*Caraun Reid DT 10 26 11 6.5 5 0 0
Jimmy Sadler-McQueen DT 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
^Andre Fluellen DT 5 6 0 0 0 0 0
*Gregory Hickman DT 12 44 9.5 4 3 3 0
+Xavier Proctor DT 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
*college statistics       +did not play in 2013       ^combined stats from 2 teams

Twentyman’s take: The Lions have a nice mix of speed and power at both end and tackle.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has implemented an open and closed scheme with his defensive ends, which should help utilize the speed of Ansah, Taylor and Webster, and the power of Jones and Tapp.

Ziggy AnsahDE Ziggy Ansah (Photo: Gavin Smith)

Ansah’s progression heading into year two will be a key component to this defense. He had a good rookie season with eight sacks, but he was far from being a polished pass rusher. Let’s hope an offseason missed rehabbing from shoulder surgery didn’t stunt his growth. It’s unlikely knowing how smart Ansah is and how hard he works off the field.

Taylor is another player who made plays on raw talent a year ago, but the Lions have really worked with him this offseason on better using his hands and leverage to his advantage. He has the potential to see some significant gains this season.

Another thing to watch early in camp is whether Jones is all the way back from that ruptured patellar tendon. His ability to played the closed role and shift inside if needed is an important component to the defense.

Shifting the focus inside, the biggest question mark with the tackles will be what Fairley looks like when he reports to camp. I commend him for losing all the weight this offseason, but can he keep it off? He did the same thing last year and then put the weight back on between minicamp and training camp.

Fairley's in the final year of his contract and this is a big year for him. The Lions seem poised to move on from him after the season, but can he change their mind?

Fairley and Suh together recorded 39 quarterback hits and 11.5 sacks from the interior. The Lions have made changes to the scheme around their talented interior duo and a lot of the success on defense is going to hinge on both of them having career years.

By the numbers:

37: By not allowing a rushing TD until the fourth quarter at Philadelphia on Dec. 8 last year, the Lions set a new franchise record by not allowing a rushing TD in 37 consecutive quarters.

23: Number of offside penalties recorded by the Lions defense in 2013, the most in the NFL

99.8: Rushing yards allowed per game by the Lions defense last year, the sixth-best mark in the NFL.


“We’re going to try to give the offenses as many looks as we can. Bring people from different angles, try to make them adjust to us instead of us always adjusting to them.”

-- Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin