Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Lions commence defensive overhaul
By Kevin Seifert
I updated our earlier post to confirm that the Detroit Lions had released their third player in two days, this time the highly respected defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. That makes three players cut -- Vanden Bosch, Stephen Peterman and Titus Young -- and about $8.45 million in salary cap space recouped over the past two days.
Young's departure leaves the Lions thin at receiver, as we noted Monday. (The St. Louis Rams claimed Young on waivers Tuesday). The Lions will have some decisions to make at offensive line after Peterman's release, and now the same is true at defensive line. It's quite possible that defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be the only opening-week 2012 starter who will return in 2013. That fits a theme general manager Martin Mayhew sounded shortly after the season: The Lions defense is likely headed for a significant personnel overhaul.
Vanden Bosch has already been released, and fellow defensive end Cliff Avril is a pending free agent who seems unlikely to get another year as the Lions' franchise player. Veteran defensive tackle Corey Williams is also a pending free agent, and the emergence of Nick Fairley in 2012 probably means Williams will move on as well.
So who will start alongside Suh and Fairley in 2013? A promotion could be in store for Willie Young, a seventh-round draft pick in 2010 who didn't have a sack in 2012 but managed 19 quarterback hurries in a relatively low 259 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). That's a hurry rate of 7.4 percent. For context, consider that Avril's rate for 38 hurries in 821 snaps worked out to 4.6 percent.
There is a big difference between being a situational pass-rusher, as Young as been for the past two seasons, and a starter. But even if the Lions focus on defensive end in the draft, they're not likely to find two new starters in the same draft at the same position. Young, a pending restricted free agent, should get every opportunity to fill one of those roles.