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2018 training camp preview: Defensive tackle

On the roster: A'Shawn Robinson, Sylvester Williams, Da'Shawn Hand (DL), Jeremiah Ledbetter, JoJo Wicker (DL), Christian Ringo, Toby Johnson, Josh Fatu.

Key losses: Haloti Ngata, Akeem Spence

Making the cut: Robinson, Williams, Hand

On the bubble: Ledbetter, Wicker, Ringo, Johnson, Fatu

Table inside Article
Player Games Tackles Sacks FF FR PD
A'Shawn Robinson 16 53 0.5 1 0 6
Sylvester Williams# 15 20 0.0 0 0 0
Da'Shawn Hand* 10 27 3.0 0 0 1
Jeremiah Ledbetter 16 14 0.5 0 0 0
Christian Ringo 6 3 0.0 0 0 0
Toby Johnson 0 0 0.0 0 0 0
JoJo Wicker* 13 42 6.0 1 1 1
Josh Fatu* 11 34 6.0 1 0 1
* college stats #with Titans

Best competition: Filling out the final couple roster spots

Robinson and Williams are expected to see a lot of time in the interior of Detroit's defensive line, but just how many tackles vs. ends make the roster is yet to be determined. In the kind of multiple-front scheme the Lions expect to feature, versatility seems to be at a premium.

Hand, the team's fourth-round pick this offseason, isn't listed as a tackle or end. He's listed as a defensive lineman, which means he's likely to work into the rotation in multiple roles.

Who emerges between Ledbetter, Wicker, Ringo, Johnson and Fatu for roster spots and playing time will be interesting to watch develop.

Ledbetter played in all 16 games for the Lions last season, and has some versatility to his game. That should suit him well.

Ringo got promoted to the active roster from the practice squad for six games last year, and played in eight games with Green Bay in 2016. He's got some experience.

Johnson, Wicker and Fatu are young and hungry, and have their own unique skill sets they bring to the table. Johnson (6-4, 320) has terrific size. Fatu (6-2, 310) has good quickness and recorded six sacks at USC last year. Wicker, like Fatu, was very productive in college, recording six sacks and 42 tackles (30 solo) last season at Arizona State.

View photos of the defensive tackles competing for roster spots entering training camp.

Twentyman's take: We're likely to see a lot of different combinations upfront among the defensive ends and tackles in Detroit's multiple-front scheme. Head coach Matt Patricia and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni value versatility. The players that can play multiple roles and different techniques will have an edge.

Robinson led all Lions defensive tackles last year with 53 tackles. He also got his hands on six passes, including an interception he returned for a touchdown against New Orleans. He's entering his third season, and could be good as a two-gap interior defender. He's familiar with the techniques the Lions will play upfront from his time with defensive line coach Bo Davis at Alabama.

Williams, a former first-round pick, has 59 starts under his belt, and provides the Lions with experience and run-stuffing ability up the middle. Again, he's more of a run stuffer than pass rusher, which fits a two-gap scheme.

What the combinations look like upfront early in training camp will give us a better idea of how many defensive tackles the Lions will look to keep on the roster. Will they go heavier at defensive end based on scheme? Stay tuned.

By the numbers:

13: Passes defended by Robinson in his first two seasons in the league.

112.5: Rushing yards per game given up by the Lions' defense in 2017. That ranked 18th in the NFL last season.

56.8: The percentage of times opponents converted 3rd and short (4 yards or less) last season, which ranked in the top 10 in the NFL.

Quotable: "I think when you go through a season, and you have rosters that are limited, and you're only allowed to play with so many players active, that versatility is critical for all positions," Patricia said during Detroit's June minicamp.

"I mean really, except for maybe your long snapper, a couple of your kickers, and your quarterback, everyone really has to have multiple roles on the job, on the team. And that's something that's critically important. Surely guys who can do more than one thing and can do it at a high level have a greater value to the roster."

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