Skip to main content

Lions on the lookout for more playmakers

Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn was very clear following the season in expressing what he thought his roster was lacking.

"I think we need more playmakers on both sides of the ball," he said. "I think big picture, we need more playmakers. We need guys to make big plays."

To me, touchdowns, chunk plays, turnovers and sacks constitute big plays in this league.

There are four positions that immediately jump out to me as areas on this roster that could use more of those impact playmakers.


Cornerback Darius Slay is going to the Pro Bowl and safety Quandre Diggs was voted as an alternate. Both players recorded three interceptions on the season. Rookie safety Tracy Walker was the only other player in the secondary to record an interception this season. He had one vs. Carolina Week 11.

The seven interceptions for the Lions were tied for the second fewest in the NFL with Green Bay and Arizona. Detroit's 14 takeaways for the season were the fewest behind only San Francisco (7). To put that in a little bit of perspective, NFC North champ Chicago led the NFL with 36 takeaways, and 27 of those came via interceptions.

The Lions could stand to add a player or two in the backend of their defense with ball skills who can get their hands on passes and create some of those game-changing turnover plays in the passing game.


Sacks and forced fumbles are huge plays that not only derail an opponent's drive, but can change the course of the game. The Lions recorded 43 sacks on the year, the 11th most in football, and their 130 quarterback hurries were the 10th most, according to Pro Football Focus statistics. Not bad. Those sacks were spread out among 14 players with defensive end Romeo Okwara leading the way with 7.5. Ten sacks were produced from blitzing linebackers or players rushing from the secondary.

Imagine if the Lions get the same kind of production spread among a number of different players and positions, like we saw this past season, but also add an elite pass rusher who can consistently produce double-digit sack numbers on his own. That would be tough for opposing offenses to handle.

Rookie defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand led the Lions with two forced fumbles. He was the only player to record more than one. Detroit forced 10 fumbles on the year and recovered seven of them, which ranked 19th in the NFL.


Compared to the rest of the league, the Lions got little production from the tight end position in the pass game. As run blockers, the unit was good.

There were 41 tight ends across the league that recorded more receptions than Detroit's leading pass catcher at the position (Levine Toilolo with 21).

We saw Eric Ebron, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and others not only make big plays between the 20's this season, but be very dangerous weapons in the red zone as well. Tight ends can be such a matchup problem for defenses because of their size and speed. That's only magnified in the confines of the red zone.

The Lions ranked 24th in red zone scoring at just over 53 percent. Second-year tight end Michael Roberts recorded three red-zone touchdowns for the Lions this year. Toilolo had one, but that was off a fake field goal. Detroit could use another playmaker at the position, not only between the 20's, but also in the red zone.


Second-year wide receiver Kenny Golladay recorded his first 1,000-yard season in 2018, and there's no reason to think more aren't on the horizon. He also led the team with 350 yards gained after the catch.

Veteran Marvin Jones Jr. was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2017. He is a proven commodity at the position. A knee injury ended his 2018 season prematurely.

After trading Golden Tate at the deadline, there was a void, however, in terms of players in the slot that could separate from defenders and make plays after the catch. The Lions ranked outside of the top 10 in yards after the catch for the first time since 2009.

In terms of average separation from defenders, Golladay led the Lions after the Tate trade with an average of 2.3 yards, which tied for 81st among receivers. Jones averaged 2.2 yards (tied for 87th). Golladay and Jones are some of the best contested ball catchers in the NFL at the position, but the Lions could use another playmaker to pair with them, one who can potentially play the slot and create some of his own big plays.

Related Content