Former Weak Roster Spots Now Figure as Top Positions to Watch for Lions

Amon-Ra St. Brown Kalif Raymond

Getty Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kalif Raymond celebrate a play in 2022.

The Detroit Lions approached the 2022 offseason as well as the NFL draft with the knowledge that they needed to add to the depth of the team to make the future look a bit brighter. As it stands today, that mission can be proclaimed as accomplished.

Detroit managed to fill needs on both offense and defense, and while they hit the defensive side a bit harder, it’s easy to see how the entire team benefitted from the moves that were made.

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Detroit added to the depth at linebacker, along the defensive line and in the backfield. They also added a few well-placed offensive pieces to the wideout and tight end room. As a result, there are shaping up to be some fun battles during camp at several spots to see what players will stand out.

What positions now offer the most intrigue in terms of roster battles for the rest of the offseason? Here’s a look at some of the most obvious spots that fans should be alert for once training camp as well as the offseason workouts begin in Allen Park.


Defensive Line

Detroit has faced a major crisis in the trenches on the defensive side of the ball in the last few years, but within the last two drafts, there’s been plenty of good inroads made toward trying to fix that in a meaningful way. The Lions watched as their team struggled to stop the run to the tune of the ranked run defense and only collected 30 sacks, so they added Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal to the mix. Those two are joined by Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike as well as names like Austin Bryant, Michael Brockers, Bruce Hector, Charles Harris, Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara and Jesse Lemonier. There’s going to be a lot of work done to sort out what players get what roles, and thats’s the way it should be for the Lions, who need to create a similar situation on their defense as they did on offense. The trenches needed work, and now, they’ve got plenty of young talent to build around. It’s an exciting group that could be full of upside.


Defensive Backfield

The Lions’ defensive backfield had their fair share of struggles in 2021, but this season, they are ready to turn over a new leaf. Boosted by the healthy return of players like Jeff Okudah, Jerry Jacobs and Ifeatu Melifonwu, the Lions also have young players like AJ Parker, Bobby Price and Will Harris set to make an impact. Amani Oruwariye is looking like a star in the making, and now the team has Mike Hughes in the mix as well. The draft added Kerby Joseph at safety, where Tracy Walker has been locked up. Seeing who is able to claim what role is going to be a fun ride for fans, and the Lions look on paper as if they finally have the kind of depth that can lead to the team playing a contending role. They will have to withstand injury troubles again, but there is a lot of reason for optimism due to the fierce competition that will soon play out.


Linebacker

If there was one spot on the defense where major offseason holes existed, it was linebacker. Young Derrick Barnes was one of the only healthy players who looked to be in the mix for the future. Alex Anzalone came back, as did former Lion Jarrad Davis for a new role. Chris Board was added, and in the draft, the Lions managed to get their hands on the super-athletic Malcolm Rodriguez. Linebacker will remain a question mark, but at the very least, there should be some good competition to see what roles hash out on the team. That is very different than in the past, where the Lions have rolled into the season with players having defined roles who then struggled. Perhaps not so this time around.


Wide Receiver

As big a hole as wideout was in 2021, it is now a strength. The Lions will return stud Amon-Ra St. Brown, revelation Josh Reynolds, depth piece Trinity Benson and gritty Kalif Raymond to the team. Rising Quintez Cephus returns off injury. Newcomers are the vertical threat DJ Chark and the electric Jameson Williams. Add it all up and there are far less question marks than one year ago today. That’s good news for Detroit as well as Jared Goff, but it also means the players will be under pressure to step up and prove they can perform on the highest level. At the very least, the Lions shouldn’t be scrounging for players to crack the roster this year to catch passes off other team’s cut wires. That is welcome news.


Tight End

Life was good for T.J. Hockenson his first few years in the league as the only weapon, but the Lions have suddenly added some interesting pieces. Brock Wright proved he can catch the ball in Hockenson’s absence last year with 2 touchdowns, the team added Garrett Griffin this offseason and also drafted an interesting talent in James Mitchell. Jared Pinkney and Shane Zylstra are also intriguing names that could push for roles. Last year, the Lions were simply hoping for one player to emerge opposite Hockenson, but this year, they could have multiple different names fighting for roles. That will be huge for the offense, and Hockenson as well. As good as he is and can be, there is no question that he could use a hand to take some of the wear and tear off of him. This group could provide that easily.

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