Lions Urged to Bring Back Special Teams Ace

Dan Campbell Josh Woods

Getty SB Nation's Pride of Detroit's Jeremy Reisman argued the Detroit Lions should consider re-signing linebacker Josh Woods.

The Detroit Lions appear to possess one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. Therefore, they could have the luxury of satisfying an underrated need on special teams with their last remaining roster spot this summer. SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit’s Jeremy Reisman argued linebacker Josh Woods as an option.

On June 24, Reisman proposed the Lions bring back Woods for special teams contributions and linebacker depth. Woods played for Detroit during head coach Dan Campbell’s first two seasons with the organization from 2021-22.

“He not only would be a solid special teamer who could replace the loss of Anthony PIttman this offseason, but now with some defensive play under his belt, Woods can be yet another depth linebacker Detroit could trust on defense if the injury bug hits,” Reisman wrote. “With the new kickoff rule, special teams matters more than ever, and we know the Lions don’t skimp out on resources there.”

Woods made 14 combined tackles in 17 games with the Lions during the 2022 season. During that campaign, he lined up for a career-high 322 special teams snaps.

Last season, Woods only played 28 snaps on special teams for the Arizona Cardinals. But he appeared on the field for a career-high 569 snaps at linebacker in 11 games for Arizona’s defense.

With that opportunity in 2023, Woods had a career-best 61 combined tackles, including 2 tackles for loss. He also recorded 1 quarterback hit, 1 pass defense and 1 forced fumble.

Why the Lions Could Add LB Josh Woods

As of June 24, the Lions have one spot remaining on their 90-man roster. Popular choices in the media to fill that last opening are safeties Justin Simmons and Quandre Diggs or wide receiver Michael Thomas.

Reisman wasn’t against the idea of bringing in Simmons or Diggs. At receiver, he argued that the Lions could target UFL wide receiver Hakeem Butler.

But Reisman also suggested Woods because of his previous experience with the team and ability to contribute on both defense and special teams.

“Linebacker Josh Woods was a key special teamer for the Lions when they were first trying to build a winner under Dan Campbell,” Reisman wrote. “He did his job extremely well to the point where he essentially ‘graduated’ from the Lions to get an opportunity at real playing time on defense with the Arizona Cardinals last year.

“Wood did exactly that, making seven starts for Arizona, while only being relegated to 28 special teams snaps. He even manned the green dot for the Cardinals, giving him valuable experience as a leader and schematic expert.”

Reisman admitted that it could be a “tough sell” for the Lions to convince Woods to return. On Detroit’s roster, Woods will be the fifth or sixth linebacker. So, he wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to play on defense.

But Reisman also argued that Woods may not have many other chances to play defense this season. The end of June is approaching, and he remains unsigned. The Lions are projected to also offer a “real chance at a championship” and “a team environment” healthier than most of the NFL locker rooms.

That could be appealing enough for Woods to return.

Lions LB Depth Heading Into 2024 Training Camp

The Lions don’t really have a star linebacker on their roster. But one reason the Lions may consider other free agent options instead of Woods is because of the depth at the position.

Malcolm Rodriguez and Derrick Barnes both have starting experience in Detroit but may serve in reserve roles this fall. Depth linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin is also returning.

Alex Anzalone and Jack Campbell are projected to start at linebacker for the Lions. Anzalone has recorded at least 125 combined tackles each of the last two seasons. A former 2023 first-round pick, Campbell is expected to make a significant leap during his second NFL season, his first as a full-time starter.

Woods would be an excellent addition as a depth linebacker and special teams ace. But there won’t initially be much opportunity for him to play.

The Lions could even have limited opportunities on special teams for Woods. Reeves-Maybin took Woods’ spot on special teams last season and became a second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl player.

Detroit also has veteran Ben Niemann and undrafted rookie DaRon Gilbert on the roster at linebacker.

With that amount of linebacker depth, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Lions consider safety or receiver options instead for their last remaining roster spot.

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