The interior of Detroit's defensive line will look much different in 2020 than it did a season ago.
Damon Harrison Sr., Mike Daniels and A'Shawn Robinson are no longer with the team. Danny Shelton and Nick Williams signed in free agency. They join Da’Shawn Hand, John Atkins, Kevin Strong, Olive Sagapolu and incoming rookies John Penisini and Jashon Cornell to make up Detroit's new-look interior on defense.
Harrison and Robinson each played over 500 snaps apiece for Detroit last season, which is a significant portion of the interior workload to replace. Williams played 531 snaps for Chicago last season and Shelton played 492 with the Patriots. Both will look to step in and play significant roles inside for Detroit's defense this fall.
"They both kind of have a different skill set, but we'll plug those guys in and we'll get a feel for once we get them all back," Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. "We have a really nice depth chart there at that position and we'll just kind of mix and match. We'll watch those two guys work and find out where they're most comfortable, what the best combination is and then we'll settle on that once we get closer to the start of the season."
Shelton had 61 tackles, three sacks, six quarterback hits and a forced fumble in 16 games (14 starts) for the Patriots last season. He's stout against the run, but provided a little something in the interior pass rush for New England as well last year.
Williams is coming off a career year with Chicago that saw him record six sacks and 42 tackles in 16 games (five starts). He added nine quarterback hits and two forced fumbles as he made the most of the first significant playing time in his five-year career.
"Excited to have both of them in that room," Undlin said of Shelton and Williams. "Great fit personality-wise, character-wise, they're just great guys first and foremost, and then obviously they have a great skill set. So, expecting great things out of both of them."
The real wildcard for Detroit along the interior of the defensive line is Hand, who is entering his third season. He was Pro Football Focus' highest graded rookie interior lineman in 2018, but he was limited to just three games last season due to injury. He's versatile and athletic, and could provide Detroit even more pass rushing prowess from the interior, if he can stay healthy.
Atkins and Strong provide experienced depth – Atkins played over 400 snaps last season – and Detroit's hoping they found a late-round gem in either Penisini or Cornell.
Undlin likes the depth the team has along the interior of the defensive line. Who emerges as starters and key contributors, and which players make the roster will be interesting to watch throughout camp.