Adam Klepp Provides a Preview of the Lions Secondary
Off the top, Darius Slay and Glover Quin are masters. Both have established themselves as elite players at their respective positions and are guys that opposing offensive coordinators spend hours game-planning for. This article is not for 23 and 27. In the NFL, it is not enough to just have two guys on your back half, even if they are elite. It’s for the long list of ‘others’ in the secondary who the success of this unit depends on in 2018.
Now let’s be clear, the Detroit Lions secondary will not be a liability this season. Week one, Patricia can roll out Slay and Quin, along with Nevin Lawson, Tavon Wilson, Quandre Diggs in the slot and do just fine. Although not elite, Lawson, Wilson, and Diggs are all proven NFL talents. The intrigue of the Lions secondary lies in the rest of the group mostly comprised of versatile players who lack a defined role in the defense. For clarity’s sake, Diggs is the most versatile player in the secondary but one who does have a defined role in the defense. Obviously with Patricia bringing in a new scheme his role may look different but as the best tackler on the team, Diggs will be on the field in 2018.
If developed to reach their full potential, the players currently slotted into back-up or even reserve roles could be starting come time for the regular season and make this unit a top 10 level group in the NFL. Second round pick Teez Tabor is entering his second season and will be competing with Nevin Lawson for the second corner spot. Fans and management alike are likely hoping that Tabor wins that battle. Jamal Agnew doesn’t have to worry about his roster spot depending on being a corner, as his value as a punt returner guarantees him to make the 53. Corner is his defensive position and his pure speed would be a welcome addition to the slot corner position, something that Quandre Diggs lacks.
Miles Killebrew showed promise his rookie season for a day three draft pick but we didn’t see much improvement from him in his second season. Killebrew saw his play time decrease as the season wore on but with a fresh set of defensive coaches and a New England scheme that played a lot of three-safety looks, he should have plenty of opportunity to carve out a significant role. Killebrew is a great tackler but projects more as a in the box safety which isn’t exactly a valued position in the NFL, with the emergence of Quandre Diggs in the safety role and the drafting of third round pick Tracy Walker, Killebrew is all out of leash and needs to show out at camp and in the preseason if he wants a roster spot. Killebrew will also be in direct competition with new Lion DeShawn Shead, who shares Killebrew’s frame at 6’2” 215.
Tracy Walker, the 2018 third round pick safety from UL Lafayette, was a surprise pick for the Lions given the need along the defensive line. However, recent rumblings of Glover Quin’s retirement not being too far off made this pick make a little more sense. No matter how you feel about the pick itself, Walker is on the team and will also make the 53-man roster. It’s unclear if the Lions expect him to compete with Tavon Wilson for the strong safety position or are grooming him to be Glover’s replacement. Some scouts through the draft process also floated the idea of Walker playing corner but with the Lions being pretty set at that position I don’t think they will try that. Walker notched eight career interceptions in college so the kid has ball skills, I’m looking forward to watching what he does and where he plays in the preseason.
An honorable mention will be made for 2016 UDFA safety Charles “Chuck” Washington from Fresno State by way of Crespi. He got playing time on special teams last year and sacked Cam Newton but with the new additions to the secondary, he faces a long road to the roster.
The bottom line is that for this secondary to continue its upward trajectory, Quinn’s middle round picks need to start contributing as starters week in and week out. The main pieces of the Lions secondary in Quin, Slay, and Diggs have all come over from the previous front-office. If Killebrew, Tabor, Agnew, and Walker can come in and start making solid contributions, this secondary could be one of the league’s best.