Did The Detroit Lions Roster Improve This Offseason?

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With The Dust Of The NFL Offseason Starting To Settle And Most Of The Major Moves Made, Let’s Look At Bob Quinn‘s Moves And How The Detroit Lions Roster Is Shaping Up.

This wasn’t an exceptionally flashy offseason for Bob Quinn and the Detroit Lions. Quinn opted not to sign any big names in free agency, not to hash out top dollar for flashy players and instead focused on signing players that could fill specific roles on the team, as well as retaining the talent already on the roster.

The big move for Bob Quinn had nothing to do with the Detroit Lions roster at all, not directly anyway. The biggest, and flashiest move of the offseason for the Lions was bringing in former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. This is certain to be the move that will be judged with the most scrutiny over the coming year, and the move that will likely define Bob Quinn’s tenure in Detroit. Quinn has hitched his wagon to Patricia, and Lions fans are going to have a chance to see what the duo of former Patriots can accomplish together next season.

Aside from the coaching move, the Detroit Lions roster featured very little in the way of turnover. Quinn kept most of the contributing pieces on the roster and made a series of acquisitions that could fill roles and wouldn’t cripple the team financially in the coming years.

It was a strange feeling throughout the offseason. It never really felt like Quinn was being aggressive to fill the needs on the Detroit Lions roster, and at times it didn’t feel like he was doing enough. Then the 2018 NFL Draft comes around, and Quinn neglected what many fans considered to be primary needs on the defensive side of the ball in favor of fixing the run game.

Exiting the draft, it still felt like the Lions had a good number of spots that Bob Quinn should have addressed on the Detroit Lions roster. That is the feeling, but not necessarily the reality.

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Before we dig into the changing landscape of the Detroit Lions roster, let’s remember that this team went 9-7 last year with the roster that they had. Let’s remember that this team went 9-7 with Jim Caldwell, who has since been replaced with Matt Patricia.

The biggest loss of the offseason was Eric Ebron. This is the loss that was never really addressed in a meaningful way. The Lions brought in Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo. Both are tight ends that find themselves a nice role in the Lions offense, but neither project to be a big time playmaker or have the impact that Eric Ebron had last year.

I know that Eric Ebron is a divisive player among fans, and I know that many took issues with his drops or his blocking or both. I understand the complaints, even if I don’t always agree with the criticisms. Regardless of how you feel about Eric Ebron, I don’t think that many fans expect Willson or Toilolo to replace Eric Ebron’s production.

The hope for fans has to be that Michael Roberts takes a step forward and is able to find his way onto the field and contribute. I think that’s possible, but Roberts doesn’t offer the same skill set as Ebron and won’t play the same role in the offense. This is the only loss that I do not feel was adequately addressed. The additional loss of Darren Fells doesn’t help the situation either.

That said, I wrote an article a little while back about why the Detroit Lions should not address the tight end position early in the 2018 NFL Draft. I stand by that. While I don’t believe that the position was adequately addressed, and I don’t feel confident in the position entering the new season, I think that Bob Quinn had far more pressing needs to take care of to shore up the Detroit Lions roster, and I think that he made good use of the resources available to him.

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The next notable loss for the Detroit Lions roster was Haloti Ngata. While Ngata was a significant player lost, he didn’t play for the vast majority of last year. If we are comparing the actual game day roster of last year to what they are looking at this year, the loss of Haloti Ngata is minimal. The good news is that Bob Quinn did replace the role on the Detroit Lions roster that Haloti Ngata was supposed to fill. Quinn signed defensive tackle Sylvester Williams. The hole that Ngata’s injury and eventual departure created was quickly filled, and the Lions actually improve that role from where they were last year.

Travis Swanson is a player that struggled for the Lions early in his career, took an unexpected step forward in 2016, and then ultimately came out flat in 2017. His struggles, coupled with concussion issues, eventually led to his release. While Quinn did very little to shore up the interior of the offensive line in free agency, he certainly addressed it in the draft.

Bob Quinn used his first round draft pick on Frank Ragnow, one of the most highly regarded interior linemen in the 2018 NFL Draft. Ragnow, despite being a rookie, should be able to be an immediate improvement over the Glasgow/Swanson combination that the Lions deployed in 2017. Ragnow will probably have some growing pains, but I think Lions fans should assume it is safe to put this one in the win column of the offseason.

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Tahir Whitehead posted back to back 100+ tackle seasons for the Detroit Lions. The former fifth round pick far outplayed his draft position and was one of the best value picks of the Mayhew era. With Matt Patricia coming in, the Lions had to shake up their linebackers a little bit to find guys that would fit Patricia’s scheme. Tahir Whitehead was a victim of the new regime.

While Whitehead was a solid player in run support, he struggled in coverage and offered very little in terms of pass rush. It was time for a change of scenery. Quinn went into free agency and signed Christian Jones and Devon Kennard early. They were his priority targets. He landed them for less than Whitehead signed with Oakland for, and they are better fits for Patricia’s scheme.

Whether or not the linebackers are improved over 2017, I don’t know. It’s tough to say, because the scheme change will dictate so much of how that position group performs. For now, I’d call the linebacker moves a wash, with the added bonus that Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin both have a year of experience under their belt and will hopefully take a step forward in year two.

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The Lions also lost DJ Hayden. Quinn did however resign Nevin Lawson and add DeShawn Shead to the Detroit Lions roster. While the resigning of Lawson doesn’t do anything to shakeup the roster from last year, the signing of Shead is likely an improvement over DJ Hayden. Hayden flashed at times for Detroit last year, but was consistently inconsistent and was prone to penalties. Shead should offer improvement, or at the very least stability if he can return to his pre-injury form.

Nevin Lawson is likely Quinn’s way of hedging the bet on Shead’s health. Additionally, the Lions added Tracy Walker in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. This was not a pick that I was expecting, and not one that I’m ecstatic about, but Quinn and Patricia see something there, and he could very well project to a role at corner back rather than safety. This is another position group on the Detroit Lions roster that I believe Bobb Quinn improved this offseason.

Those cover most of the major departures. Outside of the tight end position, I think that Bob Quinn found ways to improve every position that he lost a player at. At the very least, he found guys that would fit Matt Patricia’s new scheme better. If we stopped right here, I think that it would be safe to say that the Bob Quinn improved the Detroit Lions roster. But it doesn’t stop there. Quinn made a few other, potentially more impactful moves that help solidify this as a very positive offseason.

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First of all, the running back position. Quinn brought in Legarrette Blount in free agency, someone that I was clamoring for last year, but I think that Lions fans can agree that this was better late than never. Blount brings a power element to the running game that the Detroit Lions haven’t seen since Joique Bell was elite… But seriously, the Detroit Lions roster hasn’t seen a running back that could be counted on in short yardage situations in a while. Blount, if nothing else, brings that to the table, and I think that he can bring a lot more.

In addition to Blount, the Lions spent their second round pick on Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson, a player I consider to be among the best in the 2018 class. Blount should allow Kerryon Johnson to ease into the role of lead running back, and Johnson, if he lives up to his draft slot, should ease the transition out of Riddick, Abdullah, Zenner, and Tion Green.

Johnson can run between the tackles, can run outside, can catch the ball, and can pass protect. The Lions will have a lot of flexibility at the position moving forward, and should be able to ask him to do as much or as little as is necessary. Assuming the pick pans out, the Lions won’t have to be tethered to any back on their roster. This is quietly very important because all of the backs except Riddick will be up for contract next year, and Riddick could end up a cap casualty or trade option during next offseason.

The addition of a running game to supplement Matthew Stafford‘s offense cannot be overstated.

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In addition to bringing in talent at the running back position, Bob Quinn added some offensive line depth to the Detroit Lions roster. He spent a fifth round draft pick on Tyrell Crosby, a player that has experience at tackle and may be able to play there in a pinch, but can also kick inside and play guard. Crosby was highly regarded in the draft community and is someone that I consider to be an absolute steal in the fifth round.

Players get hurt. Linemen get hurt. Lions fans have had the unfortunate burden of witnessing what an injury depleted offensive line can look like. Depth is important. We remember how the Greg Robinson experience worked out last year don’t we? Bringing in a talented lineman in the late rounds of the NFL Draft is a good way to ensure depth and ensure that you don’t have to pay excessive amounts for it. This was a great addition to the Detroit Lions roster.

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Did the Detroit Lions roster improve this year? I believe so. Quinn made minimal splash moves in free agency and put great focus into the running game in the draft, but his subtle replacements for the guys that he let walk really helped bolster some of the positions of need. Did the Lions fix their pass rush? Probably not. But let’s remember again that this team was 9-7 and barely missed the playoffs.

I think that this team stayed the same or improved at every position group except tight end, and I think that the improvements far outweigh the value of the loss of talent at the tight end position. On top of all of this, the Lions have a brand new head coach in Matt Patricia, a coach that is well respected and a coach that Quinn believes is a better fit for the organization than Jim Caldwell. It wasn’t flashy, but the resulting Detroit Lions roster is looking good.

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Thanks for checking out the article everyone. Go Lions! You can follow me on Twitter @Lanny1925 and be sure to join the community on the Detroit Lions subreddit.


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About the Author

Sean Lanigan
I love fantasy football, fantasy baseball, music, books, video games, and all things nerd. I'm a big football fan and a bigger Detroit Lions fan. I was born in Michigan but have spent the vast majority of my life living in Viking and Packer country. If you are a Lions fan in Minnesota, hit me up, and let's watch some football.