The Detroit Lions have made plenty of offseason additions, but one spot they didn’t add much to was defensive tackle.
For months, many have wondered about the team not adding much to the front minus Danny Shelton in free agency and John Penisini in the draft. A big reason for that, though, could be the expected return of Da’Shawn Hand to the mix to play a much more significant role for the future of the team.
Once upon a time as a rookie, Hand enjoyed one of the best starts to his career that PFF had ever seen. The defender from Alabama was right up there with some of the game’s true greats in terms of metrics from his first season. Things slowed down, however, thanks mostly to injury the last few seasons. It’s hard to argue with where the numbers have been, though.
This season, Hand should be in good shape to rebound considerably. He will be healthy, but not only that, the stage will be set for him to play opposite Shelton if he is able to step up and master the defense as he has before. It’s not as if Hand has gotten worse or the game has sped up for him. It’s been a simple matter of health. When he’s been on and able to play up to his potential, he’s been excellent.
Big things could be on the horizon for Hand, and while it’s easy to overlook him right now based on the recent past, there’s a chance that he could be a huge cog for the team this coming season.
Bet on Hand rebounding in a big way for this coming season.
PFF Projects Da’Shawn Hand Position Battle
Pro Football Focus has tried to identify the answer, however. According to the site and writer Ben Linsey, the spot to watch is along the defensive line specifically at defensive tackle.
Newcomer Nick Williams as well as the established, aforementioned Hand will square off there and see who gets more snaps and can fill the role better. As Linsey wrote, the duo might help decide there is more depth up front than previously figured for Detroit.
“Danny Shelton should be the clear-cut starter at nose tackle heading into next season for Detroit, but the next two in line for snaps on the defensive interior should be Hand and Williams. Both guys figure to see plenty of playing time in a rotational capacity, but I like Hand to carve out the larger role in 2019. He got off to a tremendous start to his career as a rookie in 2018, earning an 85.9 overall grade and contributing as both a run defender and a pass rusher. Hand saw his role shrink in 2019 down to just over 100 snaps, but if he can put up a similar performance to what we saw from him as a rookie, the Lions’ defensive line will be in good shape.”
Getting a comeback from Hand would be significant for Detroit’s defensive line considering how good he was as a rookie. Williams is also a player who can add some punch in the middle. The team needs depth up front and this battle could prove they have it if both players play up to their potential.
Da’Shawn Hand’s Injury History
The Lions got a solid player in the 2018 NFL Draft when they picked up Hand out of Alabama, and quickly, Hand proved his worth to the team with some solid play up front. Injury trouble started later in the season with a knee ailment which knocked Hand out of the last few games of 2018 on the field. He struggled to get healthy early on in the 2019 year, and was not able to contribute much to Detroit’s defensive cause as a result.
As a whole, Hand has put up decent numbers. His rookie year featured 27 tackles and 3 sacks, but this season has been much worse considering health. Hand only managed to put up 6 total tackles this season. Obviously, it’s been a tough go of it thanks to injury most of all. The hope is he can come back healthy and ready to perform in 2020, because Hand is a nice piece for the Lions up front.
Forgetting about Hand at this point would be a mistake for Lions fans. He could be poised to have a huge rebound season, and if he does, could solve a ton of old problems for the team’s front.
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