Rising Young Defender Projected as Top Potential Lions’ Cut for 2022

Austin Bryant

Getty Austin Bryant before a Lions game in 2020.

The Detroit Lions roster is taking on a brand new look ahead of the 2022 season, and suddenly, the team has added plenty of depth at key spots which will make life tough on established veteran players.

Iron may sharpen iron, but numbers always represent reality in the league, and the Lions are likely to be a team that suddenly finds it harder to keep around talented players because of a roster which is suddenly starting to round out a bit in key ways.

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While the Lions have good depth on the offensive side, especially along their front, the team also has some solid players on defense, and a formally barren defensive line will put four new pieces on the field from the first three rounds of the last two drafts combined. That puts pressure on young veterans currently on the roster to produce and keep impressing the coaching staff.

One such player in that situation is linebacker and edge rusher Austin Bryant. While Bryant had a breakout season in 2021 by his own standards, the rusher could still find himself under pressure this coming season to produce given all the new talent coming into the mix. That’s just what Bleacher Report sees ahead of a new season.

As writer Ian Wharton explained, Detroit’s depth may hurt Bryant, as will his sparse production earlier in his career due to injuries.

Recently, Wharton took a look at predicting all of the best players who could be cut in the NFL. For the Lions, Bryant was the player that was mentioned as potentially on the chopping block due to depth as well as new players coming into the mix.

“The likely odd man out due to the numbers game in Detroit, the 25-year-old should draw interest from defenses needing a power rusher in his prime,” Wharton wrote specifically.

Bryant could latch on elsewhere if cut, but he could also re-earn a role in Detroit if he can stay healthy and show consistency. Either way, the decision will be in his hands with what he can show in camp.

Lions Defensive Line Suddenly Deep for 2022 Season

Detroit has added interesting pieces to the mix that figure to help them in a big way during the new year on defense, especially up front. The Lions will have Romeo Okwara coming back off injury, and witnessed the emergence of his brother Julian Okwara in 2021. Additionally, Detroit has 2021 picks Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill looking primed to take their next steps. In the 2022 NFL draft, the team added Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal, who figure to be instant contributors. Sixth-round pick James Houston may also offer something. Veterans like Michael Brockers and Charles Harris will return to provide some punch up front, and young players like John Penisini, Jashon Cornell and 2021 camp standout Bruce Hector will also be scrapping for roles. Add it up and the neighborhood is suddenly very tough for Bryant and others this season, no matter what they may have done recently.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to see Detroit’s defensive line being one of the deepest units on the team in 2022, which could leave multiple players on the inside looking out of an intense looming roster battle.

Bryant’s Career Stats & Highlights

Picked up in the fourth-round of the 2019 draft, the pass rusher out of Clemson got hyped as a possible hidden-gem thanks to his production in college, but an injury helped his slip in the draft, and once he got to Detroit, he was quickly injured again with a nearly identical pectoral ailment to the one he sustained in school. The first few years, he never saw the field and couldn’t show the Lions or their fans some of the immense talent which led to him putting up some solid college stats. With the Tigers, Bryant was active with 130 tackles, 21 sacks, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles and 37 tackles for-loss.

In spite of that, Bryant put up just 25 total tackles in his time in the NFL coming into this season which is a lower total of production than many would have predicted. In 2021, he managed to top that with 31 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Health played a role in his resurgence, something which the tape showed a chance of happening:

Austin Bryant Official Highlights | Clemson DEClemson defensive end Austin Bryant has been a productive member of the Tigers' defensive line since arriving in Death Valley. Bryant was a first-team All-American in 2017. The two-time All-ACC member ranks in the top-10 all-time at Clemson in sacks with 20.0 and has 34.0 career tackles-for-loss. He plays with great power and strength and…2019-01-04T21:23:42Z

Bryant is finally healthy and being able to show signs of his old self. Will depth hurt him this coming year, or will he be able to lock down a role for 2022 in Detroit? That stands out as a variable to watch later in the summer when the intense camp battles begin to heat up.

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