Tue, 17 May 2022

A closer look at the Lions' Senior Bowl roster: Defense

Detroit Lions
27 Jan 2022, 19:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

Senior Bowl practices are less than a week away, and the Detroit Lions and New York Jets now know which players they'll be coaching in the week-long all-star showcase for the best senior talent entering April's NFL Draft.

Here's a look at the defensive talent the Lions will get an up close look at down in Mobile, Ala. next week:

DEFENSIVE LINE

Phidarian Mathis, Alabama Devonte Wyatt, Georgia Zachary Carter, Florida John Ridgeway, Arkansas Neil Farrell, LSU

Jordan Davis got a lot of the headlines at Georgia, but his running mate along the interior, Wyatt, finished with 39 total tackles, which was tops among Georgia's interior linemen. Wyatt also had 27 quarterback pressures. Farrell capped off his LSU career with 143 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks from the interior. Mathis was disruptive for Alabama, and fits the mold of what the Lions look for upfront with run-stuffing prowess and versatility.

Need at defensive line: Moderate. General manager Brad Holmes said two of the position groups he feels pretty good about heading into the offseason are offensive line and defensive line. The Lions bring back veteran Michael Brockers upfront, and expect rookies Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike to take big leaps heading into year two. There's some depth behind those three too, but that doesn't mean the Lions won't be on the lookout to add to the group.

EDGE RUSHER

Joshua Paschal, Kentucky Cameron Thomas, San Diego State Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State Amare Barno, Virginia Tech DeAngelo Malone, Kentucky Micheal Clemons, Texas A&M

Thomas (No. 5), Johnson (No. 6) and Clemons (No. 9) all made Mel Kiper Jr.'s list of the top edge rushers in this draft, and all three will compete to be the best pass rusher in Mobile for the week. Johnson, a Georgia transfer, totaled 12 sacks and 18 tackles for loss this season. Thomas has position versatility and recorded 10.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss in 2021. Clemons had 7.0 sacks and 13 quarterback hits to go along with 11.5 tackles for loss.

Need at edge rusher: High. The Lions are certainly in the market to add a pass rusher, and they'll get an up-close look at a few good ones next week. Detroit's 30 sacks on the year were the third fewest in the NFL. It's certainly possible the Lions grab an underclassman pass rusher at No. 2, but teams can never have too many good pass rushers, so don't be surprised if someone from this list is looked at late in the first round or on Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft.

LINEBACKER

JoJo Domann, Nebraska Quay Walker, Georgia D'Marco Jackson, Appalachian State Damone Clark, LSU Channing Tindall, Georgia Aaron Hansford, Texas A&M Jeremiah Moon, Florida

It's a pretty versatile group of linebackers for the Lions with varying skill sets. There's the former safety turned linebacker Domann, who is kind of in the mold of a hybrid cover linebacker NFL defensive coordinators like to have. He can make his mark in coverage drills in Mobile. Tindall has terrific speed and coverage skills, while Clark and Walker are bigger more physical presences at the position.

Need at linebacker: High. Detroit is high on the development they saw from rookie fourth-round pick Derrick Barnes this season, but with Alex Anzalone and Jalen Reeves-Maybin scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, the Lions could be in a position to retool at linebacker this offseason. Expect them to add to the group in both free agency, whether that's signing some of their own or outside the organization, and via the draft.

2021 position breakdown: Tight ends 2021 position breakdown: Cornerbacks A closer look at the Lions' Senior Bowl roster: Offense

CORNERBACK

Roger McCreary, Auburn Mario Goodrich, Clemson Derion Kendrick, Georgia Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska Alontae Taylor, Tennessee Akayleb Evans, Missouri Tariq Woolen, UTSA Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston Josh Thompson, Texas

McCreary (6-0, 190) has a chance to be the best of the bunch for the week. He's a terrific man-cover corner, but he also has the instincts and athleticism to excel in zone schemes as well. He defended 14 passes with two picks this past season. Kendrick was dismissed from Clemson for what turns out were some family issues he was dealing with. He got a clean slate at Georgia, and earned a starting role on their National Championship defense. Goodrich (6-0, 190) was first-team All-ACC credited with 48 tackles, nine pass breakups and two interceptions this season. Evans (6-2), Woolen (6-3) and McCollum (6-4) all have terrific length.

Need at cornerback: Moderate. The Lions have a lot of talent and depth returning in 2022, including Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah, AJ Parker, Ifeatu Melifonwu and Jerry Jacobs. But the tricky part is Okudah (Achilles) and Jacobs (ACL) are coming off major injuries. What will their status be by training camp? Cornerbacks are like pass rushers in that teams can never have too many, so expect the Lions to continue to add talent and depth to that room.

SAFETY

Tycen Anderson, Toledo Leon O'Neal Jr., Texas Yusuf Corker, Kentucky

Anderson (6-2, 210) has some position versatility having started and played at both safety spots while at Toledo. He'll be asked to do a lot of things in Mobile, maybe even play some corner. He'll excel on special teams. O'Neal won the Aggies Heart Award, Defensive Attitude Award and the team strength and conditioning award at their end of the season banquet. It speaks to the kind of player and worker he is. Corker, a two-time captain, totaled 81 tackles in 13 games with eight pass breakups.

Need at safety: High. Both Tracy Walker and Dean Marlowe are scheduled to hit free agency. Walker had a terrific 2021 season and was vocal about wanting to return to Detroit, but we'll just have to see how free agency plays out. Will Harris had his ups and down at safety before transitioning to cornerback the second half of the season. Expect the Lions to add a safety in free agency and the draft.

SPECIALISTS

Kicker Cameron Dicker, Texas Punter Jake Camarda, Georgia Long snapper Jordan Silver, Arkansas

Dicker scored the most points (386) in Texas school history. He's both a kicker and a punter, which could intrigue some teams. He was 13-of-15 kicking field goals this past season and finished 60-of-79 for his career. He averaged 46.8 yards per punt. Camarda averaged 46.7, 46.6, and 46.7 yards per punt in each of the last three seasons.

Need at specialist: Low. Punter Jack Fox is one of the best in the league and could be a candidate to sign long-term this offseason. He's an exclusive rights free agent and will be back. Long snapper Scott Daly is also an exclusive rights free agent and is expected back. Detroit has two good place-kicker options under contract next season in Riley Patterson and Austin Seibert.

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