Lions looking for versatility in defensive personnel

The Lions’ defense is going to look different next season. To what extent, we’ll have to wait to learn until the players take the field in the coming months, but the key word the orchestrators of the unit keep coming back to is multiple.

No NFL defense lines up the same way every play, neither up front nor in the back end. Multiple looks and sub-packages are the way of the modern game, but the pieces the Lions have added this offseason don’t look the some as the pieces they’re replacing. And there’s a strong possibility returning players won’t be used the way they’ve been used in the past.

One of the key components of Detroit’s scouting system is comparing a potential Lions player to someone from the team or coach’s past. So with whom, from Patricia’s coaching experience, does Kennard share similarities

Patricia was reluctant to compare skill sets, not wanting to put unnecessary expectations on the Lions’ newcomer, but when he limited it to body type, the first two names that came to mind were Kyle Van Noy and Rob Ninkovich.

Lions fans remember Van Noy as the second-round pick who didn’t work out in Detroit, but Patricia turned him into a key contributor after the Patriots acquired the linebacker in a midseason trade two years ago.

The pursuit of size would seem to spell trouble for someone like Jalen Reeves-Maybin, a fourth-round draft pick from last season. He’s undersized, even by the previous scheme’s standards, but Patricia intends to find a function for all the pieces he has at his disposal.

I think a guy like that definitely has a place within some of the schemes that we do, Patricia said.

Up front, the Lions largely look similar, with the key difference being a swap at defensive tackle. Despite reportedly having a matching offer, Haloti Ngata opted to take a job with Philadelphia because he wanted to continue to play an attacking style. His replacement, Sylvester Williams, has the athleticism to occasionally rush the passer, but is more of a two-gapping. run-stuffer who is an ideal early-down player.

The secondary also remains largely intact, with cornerback Nevin Lawson and Tavon Wilson re-signing with the team and DeShawn Shead replacing D.J. Hayden, giving the team a bit more size and physicality on the depth chart.

And while it remains to be seen how that rotation will shake out, the Lions like the versatility they’ve been accumulating in the back end. Quandre Diggs, a nickel back who made a wildly successful conversion to safety late last season, is a prime example.

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