The Detroit Lions have several players facing vital seasons and as a result, there are several huge positional battles set to take shape this coming season.
Which ones are the most significant? Across the roster, there are plenty to note which makes picking a favorite almost impossible. 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 Da’Shawn 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.
Nick Williams Statistics
Williams has bounced around the NFL a bit. He started his career as a seventh round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013, and by 2014, had joined the Kansas City Chiefs. After spending a few seasons there, Williams departed for the Miami Dolphins, and spent a season there before signing with the Chicago Bears in 2018. While with Chicago, Williams
Known for his ability to be a pass rush disruptor, Williams might not offer the Lions much against the run, but he can get after the pocket as his 6 sacks in 2019 prove. After putting up minuscule stats everywhere else, Williams came into his own with the Bears last season, setting career highs in every category. The hope is with more starting time, the 30 year old can continue to play a big role and come into his own in the league with Detroit.
Next season, the expectation would be for Williams to play a bigger role in Detroit and build upon his solid stats from 2019. If he’s able to do this he might take command of this battle.
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.
Seeing what Hand and Williams are able to do in competition could go a long way toward determining how successful the team can be.
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