A Look At Who We Think Will Be A Breakout Player, Or Who May Have A Bounce-Back Season.
There are a lot of high expectations for Detroit Lions players going into the 2017 season. This is about the time for that. The NFL draft is over. There isn’t a whole lot of real information on the teams at this point.
Camp battles haven’t started. Everyone is still undefeated. There are a lot of questions about certain players heading into the 2017 season. Can Ameer Abdullah stay healthy and hang on to the football? Can Eric Ebron take a big step forward and be a reliable target in the passing game? Can Ziggy Ansah get back to his pre-injury form?
Every fan wants the answers to all of those questions to be “yes”, but that would be an extremely idealistic outlook on the season. Likely, some of these guys will bounce back or be breakout players, and some of them will fail to live up to our expectations.
The writing staff of The Detroit Lions Podcast took a look at who we thought were the most likely to succeed this year.
Someone that did well in his rookie year, but not many people noticed it, was Miles Killebrew. In his 17 games played last season, Killebrew ended with only 16 tackles, one pass deflection, and one interception. Killebrew did see more playing time as the season went on as the team was dealing with more linebacker injuries, Killebrew played a big nickel role and while he wasn’t making big plays left and right, he did his job and did it well as a rookie.
Questions earlier in the season were if Killebrew could and would play linebacker since the team was depleted at the position. Killebrew would never play linebacker, and I don’t think he will play it this year either. That big nickel role fitted him well and he could see more playing time at safety overall. Rafael Bush is gone and while Tavon Wilson did well last season also, he and Bush rotated in and out and bounced off each other. Killebrew can replace Bush and help out the secondary with his height and his power.
The Lions need help in the secondary and while they addressed the issues somewhat in drafting Teez Tabor, Jamal Agnew and bringing in former first-round pick D.J. Hayden, all of those guys play cornerback. Detroit let Bush walk and with the news of Alex Carter now moving to safety after trying to play cornerback failed, along with his injuries, there weren’t any additions to the part of the secondary that needed some help. Alex Carter is an addition, sure, but his injury history and lack of play time does mean he will be fighting Killebrew for playing time and not the other way around.
If you want a more in-depth look at Killebrew and how he could be the next breakout player on the Lions next season, check out what Lucas did here.
If you’re looking for a breakout player this year, your best bet might be Armonty Bryant. When the ex-Cleveland Brown came over mid way through last season not a whole lot was thought of the move, however he quickly came in and showed off some immediate skill as a pass rush specialist. In only five games last year (due to a three game suspension during weeks 9-11 and then a season ending injury in his first game back in week 12), Bryant totaled five sacks, one in three of his first four games.
He consistently created havoc around the line of scrimmage, using his speed off the line to open up offensive tackles and make QBs feel pressure. While yes, hes a bit of a one trick pony and maybe even a liability in the run game, the Lions have nobody on their roster that can do what Bryant can.The coaching staff seems to be heavily invested in him, sticking by him through his suspension and then making him a priority offseason resigning in March.
If he can stay on the field for a full 16 games, don’t be surprised to see Bryant out there for around 400+ snaps next year as the DE3/4 and bringing in 8-9 sacks coming off the edge.
As for a bounce-back guy, while the Lions have a few players who are looking to come back from an underwhelming 2016 campaign, I’m going to talk about a new player that’s looking to bounce back in a new town.
D.J. Hayden has had a rough set of obstacles thus far in his career to work through. Before he was drafted, he sustained a life-threatening heart injury which derailed his rookie season, followed by a foot injury in 2014 and a hamstring in 2016 that significantly affected his development in Oakland. Now, in Detroit, Hayden is looking to restart his career and get back to the immense promise that he flashed in college.
Hayden has always been a physically talented player. He simply needs to grow his game-speed awareness and not get lost in space. In a more simplified Lions zone scheme, Hayden may have found himself a much better fit for a fresh start on his career. If pride and desire won’t fuel him to speed up his development however, then money probably will.
Hayden’s one year deal is heavily incentive layden, netting him $31,250 every time he is named to the game-day roster as well as potentially $1.5 million in production-based incentives. This is Hayden’s last and best chance potentially at becoming an impact NFL player, making him my bounce-back player to watch for Detroit in 2017.
This may seem like an obvious choice, but I really believe that Ziggy Ansah is going to be a bounce-back player for the Detroit Lions in 2017. There are a lot of contributing factors to this.
First of all, the obvious: Ziggy was hurt most of last year, and even when he was playing, he was playing at less than 100 percent. I think that if Ziggy comes back healthy, he will be a lot closer to the player that we saw before last season.
Second, Ziggy was a raw player coming out of college. This was evidenced by the huge strides that he made between his first and second year in the NFL. Last year, due to injury, was a step back from a production standpoint. It was not necessarily a step back from a development standpoint. With someone as new to football as Ansah, every year is potential for development. I think that there is a very strong possibility that he comes back better with another year of learning under his belt, even though he wasn’t active for the entirety of last season.
The Lions’ pass rush last year was essentially non-existent. There is no reason to believe that will be the case this year. A defensive line that has a player like Ziggy should never have a non-existent pass rush. The rest of the line is questionable in their pass rush capabilities, but this should be an area that we see significant improvement, even if the only reason is that Ziggy makes a healthy return to the team.