Lions Positional Analysis: Defensive Tackle

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In this 11 part series Adam Ostermeier and I are going to be profiling each position group on the Lions’ roster, with two groups a week, and three during the last week as we lead you to the first preseason game of the year against the Steelers on August 12. In this series of articles we will be giving you a general idea of what to expect for each player, project stats for the upcoming season, and predict who’s making the final cut to keep your off-season boredom at a low dim and give you a chance to look at the roster before the first kickoff happens. Today we will look at the defensive tackle position, so let’s kick this off!

Haloti Ngata Stays in First

Haloti Ngata played in only 14 games last year and he had his worst year ever in his career. He ended up with only 15 tackles, 10 assisted tackles, two and a half sacks and three pass deflections. He did improve as the season continued and recovered from a calf injury sustained in week 4. This year you’ve got to expect him to be better. He is going to want to show the organization that last year was a fluke and that he can still be a factor on the defensive line.

2016 Projection: 20 tackles, 15 assisted tackles, five sacks, seven pass deflections and an interception.

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Tyrunn Walker Looks to Prove His Worth

Tyrunn Walker had a disappointing year with Detroit in 2015. Missing most of the season due to a broken leg, also suffered in week 4, Walker had five tackles and four assisted tackles. This off-season he has trained hard to return to his old self and get that leg stronger than ever. We hope he can play in all 16 games this year, but if he has another bad year of injuries or a poor performance, 2016 could be his last year as a defensive tackle in Detroit.

2016 Projection: 15 tackles, 10 assisted tackles, two sacks.

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Anthony Zettel Looks to Earn Playing Time

The incoming rookie from Penn State is going to have a little bit of an edge over most of the people on this list. In college he played as defensive tackle and as a defensive end. He has the athletic ability to play both end and tackle, so even if he can’t get much playing time at the defensive tackle spot, he could see action at DE if it comes down to it. At Penn State, he ended up with 119 tackles, 38 for loss, 20 sacks, four interceptions, 14 pass deflections, two fumble recoveries and forced fumbles. If he can get some playing time this year in Detroit it could be a valuable boost to his fledgling career.

2016 Projection: 10 tackles, 3 assisted tackles, one sack.

Louis Palmer Representing That Local Pride

Louis Palmer, coming out of the good ol’ college of Central Michigan University, is looking to play spoiler here. While at CMU, Palmer had 80 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, four sacks, three pass deflections and two forced fumbles. Palmer doesn’t have the stats to really contend for a spot on the team, while he could end up on the practice squad, it is highly unlikely that being on the practice squad will even happen.

2016 Projection: Cut.

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Khyri Thornton Won’t Have a Shot

Khyri Thornton played six games for the Lions last year and ended up with three tackles and two assisted tackles. Thornton didn’t do much in his six games with the team last year, and with Robinson and Zettel getting drafted, and Walker returning from injury, his chances of making the team have just been shut.

2016 Projection: Cut.

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Kerry Hyder is a Longshot

Khyri Thornton has a better chance at making the team than Hyder. Hyder only played in one game for the Lions last year and with very little experience on the team last year and with the same reasons as stated above, Hyder won’t be on the team come week one.

2016 Projection: Cut.

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A’Shawn Robinson Shows He Was a Steal

A’Shawn Robinson fell into the Lions’ lap in the second round of the draft. He is a first round talent, but true to the haphazard nature of how the NFL Draft goes, crazy things happened and Robinson slipped into the second round and eventually was taken by Detroit. Robinson had 133 tackles, 22 for loss, nine sacks, five pass deflections and one forced fumble and recovery. Robinson will be fighting for that second spot in the position and has a good chance to start alongside Ngata. Robinson has been impressing coaches so far, so with some more time learning the playbook and in-game experience, Robinson could be in for a good first year.

2016 Projection: 20 tackles, 10 assisted tackles, four sacks, one pass deflection and one forced fumble.

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Stefan Charles Looks to Compete

Charles hasn’t done much in his career, playing in 37 games and only getting 29 tackles, 19 assisted tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Charles has some experience playing defensive tackle in the league but with his lack of production in 37 games, his chances of making the roster with more productive players to compete against, his chances are going to be harder than ever.

2016 Projection: Cut.

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One Year After Getting Drafted, Gabe Wright is Gone

Gabe Wright was drafted last year and appeared in seven games, only getting five tackles and one assisted tackle. I don’t agree with letting go of a player after one year and not getting much playing time, especially after we moved up in the draft to snag him. Wright will have a chance to make the team no doubt about it, but the incoming players will test him and he will fail that test.

2016 Projection: Cut.

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Caraun Reid Gets More Playing Time

Last season Reid played in 14 games and started in 12, and his production wasn’t bad. He had 23 tackles, six assisted tackles, two sacks, one pass deflection and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. With having average numbers in the 12 games he started last year, he may not start anymore but he could appear in all 16 games still and have an impact on the line.

2016 Projection: 18 tackles, seven assisted tackles, two sacks.

Final Defensive Tackle Depth Chart

  1. Haloti Ngata
  2. A’Shawn Robinson
  3. Caraun Reid
  4. Tyrunn Walker
  5. Anthony Zettel

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.