Led by All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay, the Detroit Lions' secondary was much more of a playmaking bunch a year ago than we’ve seen in previous seasons. Detroit’s defensive backfield intercepted 16 passes, forced nine fumbles and scored four defensive touchdowns.
Sure, the Lions ranked 27th against the pass in 2017, allowing an average 243.2 passing yards per game, but opposing passers had just an 84.1 passer rating against the Lions, which ranked Detroit in the top half of the league in that category. Detroit’s 21 passing touchdowns allowed a year ago ranked in the top 10 for fewest in the NFL.
When it came to the roster building in Detroit’s secondary this offseason, Lions general manager Bob Quinn re-signed safety Tavon Wilson and cornerback Nevin Lawson, and only added one new face to the group via free agency in veteran cornerback DeShawn Shead.
Quinn hasn’t shown any hesitation in the past to revamp units he thinks needs it. He did it with the offensive line last year and the linebacking corps this offseason.
The fact that he left the secondary mostly intact heading into the NFL Draft has to speak some to his confidence level in that group. Quinn was asked about the secondary last week at the annual league meetings, and said he does like the collection of players he has there.
“I think it goes back to the versatility,” he said. “It goes back to guys being able to play outside, inside, corner, safety. Really with the two young guys coming back too in (Teez) Tabor and (Jamal) Agnew, adding those guys in with the new guys that we added this offseason and getting Nevin (Lawson) back, I think it’s a good, quality group.”
New head coach Matt Patricia wants to be multiple with his defensive schemes, and the Lions have a collection of players in their secondary with varying skillsets to help make that a reality.
Quandre Diggs can play both the nickel and safety. Wilson has played strong safety, nickel cornerback and a hybrid linebacker role in the dime. Miles Killebrew has a similar skillset to Wilson’s. Shead played all five positions in Seattle’s secondary over the years. Nevin Lawson and Tabor have experience playing both inside and outside. Heck, Glover Quin was a cornerback his first three seasons in the league before making the switch to safety.
“I think we’re going to get our roster all the way to 90 and get into the OTAs and kind of see where everyone fits,” Quinn said. “I think that’s the beauty of – I think both Quandre and Tavon (Wilson), and you can go right down the roster of guys that can play multiple positions, but I think that’s a really good thing for us to have.
“Quandre proved last year that he can play safety, we know he can play nickel. Tavon can play safety, he can play big nickel, he can play down in kind of like a linebacker-type position. So, you know, with the way the offenses are nowadays in the NFL, we need to have versatile guys that can cover. It’s a passing league and we need to have enough defensive backs that can play multiple positions to help us.”
Additions could certainly be coming to the secondary via the draft later this month, but Quinn seems to like the collection of players he’s amassed back there so far and the versatility they bring to Patricia’s new defense.