In my previous posts I have discussed the pre-draft roster, the 2020 draft class and the post-draft undrafted free agent signings and cuts. Here I take a look at how that's affected the roster and the possible starting lineups for offense and defense.
Here's how the roster looks right now (signings in bold, releases in red)
D'Andre Swift (2nd round pick, Georgia)
Jason Huntley (5th round pick, New Mexico State)
Tra Carson (released)
Nick Bawden (FB)
Luke Sellers (FB) (UDFA, South Dakota State)
Hunter Bryant (UDFA, Washington)
Marvin Jones Jr
Quintez Cephus (5th round pick, Wisconsin)
Jonah Jackson (3rd round pick, Ohio State)
Logan Stenberg (4th round pick, Kentucky)
Josh Garnett (FA signing)
Halapoulivaati Vaitai (FA signing from PHI)
Casey Tucker (released)
Julian Okwara (3rd round pick, Notre Dame)
John Penisini (6th round pick, Utah)
Jashon Cornell (7th round pick, Ohio State)
Jamie Collins Sr.
Jeff Okudah (1st round pick, Ohio State)
Jalen Elliott (UDFA, Notre Dame)
Bobby Price (UDFA, Norfolk State)
Jeremiah Dinson (CB/S) (UDFA, Auburn)
Arryn Siposs (UDFA, Auburn)
Matt Wile (released)
Steve Wirtel (UDFA, Iowa State)
James Fisher (released)
My projected starting line up before in person training begins is:
QB: Matthew Stafford - What more needs to be said? He's a top 5 QB in the league when healthy, and fingers crossed that will be the case for the full season.
RB: D'Andre Swift - I feel almost apologetic for Kerryon here because I love him, but I don't see the team burning a early 2nd round pick for a non-starter. I expect the snaps to be fairly split between Swift and Johnson for the first two downs (say 70:30), with Ty Johnson and Jason Huntley also seeing some 3rd down action.
LT: Taylor Decker - There's no competition here. He's a solid, dependable but uninspiring starter who will need to play well to get an extension, though there's a fair argument out there that that should be sorted in advance of the season.
LG: Jonah Jackson - Jonah can play both guard positions so its a coin flip as to where he fits in here. I like slotting him in at LG, which puts him between two players in Decker and Ragnow who know the system inside out, and he played there in his final season at Ohio State.
C: Frank Ragnow - He played LG in his first season in Detroit, but last year transitioned back to his college position of center and was one of the best in the league - don't expect any movement here.
RG: Logan Stenberg - I think a few may be surprised by this one, expecting Stenberg to fit into a rotation. However, Detroit is looking to establish the run generally and he's the run down guard, so he gets the start. I expect to see Josh Garnett and Joe Dahl to take snaps from Jackson and Stenberg generally however.
RT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai - You don't sign big V to $10m a year without starting him opposite Decker at RT.
TE1: T.J. Hockenson - It's fair to say the 1st round pick last year underwhelmed after a terrific game 1 last season although the quality is clear to see. It's time for him to break out as an elite talent in the run blocking and pass catching game.
TE2: Jesse James - He didn't live up to the price tag last year, but with Detroit looking to run the ball, expect either a two TE set often.
WR1: Kenny Golladay - The TD leader in the league last year. Get him resigned now BQ.
WR2: Marvin Jones - He was in the top 10 in TDs last year and is a quality WR2 - but he needs to stay healthy.
[Other combinations on offense are:
WR2 drop for a FB in power running packages, so Bawden, Nauta are options here.
TE2 drop for WR3, being Amendola or Cephus from the slot most likely
TE1 and 2 drop for WR3 and WR4, being Amendola and either Hall, Allisson, Huntley, Cephus or Ty Johnson].
The biggest issue with projecting the starters is working out what defensive formation MP is going to put out there - we rushed 3 from 3-4 a fair amount last year, but I see us reverting to 4-3 and trying to get some more pressure from the edge.
DT1: Danny Shelton - He's started the last 4 seasons in New England so he will here too.
DT2: Nick Williams - He logged 6 sacks in only 5 starts in Chicago last year from the interior and he'll get a bigger opportunity here.
DE1: Trey Flowers - He's getting paid a bucket load and played terrific last year - he's almost the first name on the team sheet.
DE2: Da'Shawn Hand - Some may be tempted to stick Julian Okwara in here straight away, but he's a raw talent who needs some coaching in the run game and will be introduced in passing situations earlier on in the season, perhaps before seeing more meaningful snaps later in the year. Hand is a terrific talent who needs to stay on the field to show it.
OLBs: Jamie Collins, Jarrad Davis - Jamie Collins comes with that New England pedigree that the back office crave and he'll be the no.1 linebacker in this group. People may be surprised to see Jarrad here, but he's a threat on the outside, especially in blitz situations and just needs to do the basics better this year, a move to OLB from MLB will help with this. Needs to have a worldy good year to be resigned for next season though.
MLB: Jahlani Tavai - Tavai played excellently as a rookie in a poor defensive group last year and communicated well, he gets moved to MLB to shield Davis from the worse parts of his character.
CB1: Jeff Okudah - You don't not start the 3rd overall pick. It's a plug-and-play situation where Lions fans will (vainly) hope he plays better than Darius did in the last couple of seasons.
CB2: Desmond Trufant - He's an excellent 2nd CB option but has had injuries and needs to remain on the field.
FS: Duron Harmon - He was traded to Detroit to start and the draft or free agency hasn't changed that.
SS: Tracy Walker - Tracy faces competition from Kearse, Harris and the UDFA's to start but his solid play last year and strong work ethic will see him beat out the competition for a week 1 start.
[Other combinations on defense include:
I expect the Lions to start as above, but actually expect the majority of snaps to be in the nickel which will see Jarrad Davis drop for Justin Coleman who's paid like a starter.
The single safety looks will see Coleman come in for Walker.
A move to 3-4 will see Nick Williams drop for Coleman]
What do you think of the Lions roster moves?
Do you think my projected starters are way off?
Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @roarofthelions1