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2019 Position Breakdown: Safeties

The good: Despite missing three games due to injury, second-year safety Tracy Walker still managed to lead the team in tackles with 103, which ranked in the top 10 in the NFL among the league's safeties. He also had a career-high eight passes defended.

Veteran safety Tavon Wilson was second on the team with 98 tackles.

Walker and Wilson were two of Detroit's four highest graded defenders throughout the season, as calculated by Pro Football Focus. Wilson's 98 tackles and five passes defended were both career highs for him.

Detroit drafted safety Will Harris in the third round last offseason. The former Boston College product ended up playing in just under 60 percent of Detroit's defensive snaps. He saw a considerable increase in playing time after the team traded Quandre Diggs, and like all rookies, Harris had his ups and downs, but he did show some flashes of playmaking ability, especially Week 17 vs. Green Bay.

View photos of the Detroit Lions' safeties from the 2019 season.

The bad: The numbers don't lie, and Detroit had the worst pass defense in the NFL this past season, allowing on average 284.4 passing yards per contest. The safety play has to accept its role in that figure.

The Lions had just seven interceptions all season, tied for the fewest in the NFL, and Walker was the only Lions safety to record an interception. He had one.

Detroit also had its struggles this season defending the big pass plays. Detroit ranked 31st allowing 72 completions of 20-plus yards, and opposing passers had a league-high 116.7 passer rating on passes that traveled at least 21-plus yards in the air.

Key stat: The Lions finished with a turnover differential of minus-five, which was tied with Atlanta for 24th in the NFL. Detroit's 18 total takeaways in 2019 were the ninth fewest in the league.

Free agents: Wilson and safety/linebacker hybrid Miles Killebrew are both unrestricted free agents.

Wilson had one of his finer seasons in 2019. He was a good box safety and extra run defender. He's smart, and he knows the defense. He's also a veteran leader. At some point the young guys have to play, but Wilson still proved to be an asset this season.

Killebrew doesn't play much on defense anymore. We'll see if his free agency choice will be someone that gives him more of an opportunity to do so. Killebrew has established himself as one of the better core special teamers in the NFL. He finished fourth in the NFL in special teams tackles (15) this past season.

Justin Simmons, Anthony Harris, Devin McCourty, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Tre Boston and Damarious Randall are a few of the veterans slated to hit free agency this offseason.

The draft: The Lions have spent two third-round picks the last two seasons acquiring Walker and Harris. Those two are the expected to play key roles next season, but adding more playmakers to that group isn't out of the question, either. The Lions do play a lot the three-safety packages on defense.

MVP: Walker gets the nod. He not only led the team in tackles playing in just 13 games, but he's got good ball skills and has shown an ability to be in a position to make plays. He did a nice job in his development from year one to year two, and the Lions will be expecting more of the same in his third season in 2020.

Most improved: The Lions, in part, traded Diggs to Seattle early in the year because of what they were seeing from Harris in practice, and they wanted to find more opportunities for their rookie to get more playing time.

The Lions were willing to navigate some of the bumps in the road that come with playing a rookie considerable minutes, but they felt it would help their defense in the long run. Lions fans should be encouraged that Harris' two best games of the season came Week 16 in Denver and Week 17 vs. Green Bay.

Quotable: "Will (Harris) had some growing pains midseason, but I think Will Harris played his best game of the season Week 17," Lions GM Bob Quinn said after the season. "(He) really kind of let it loose and played fast, so that was a good sign."

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