Projected Lineups: Detroit Lions

Steve Palazzolo sorts through Detroit's talented lineup and points out how they might address the holes that remain.

| 3 years ago

Projected Lineups: Detroit Lions

32-lineups-DETA new chapter begins for the Detroit Lions as Jim Caldwell takes the reins as head coach, but the cupboard is loaded with plenty of talent. It’s not often a new coach is blessed with a viable quarterback, one of the league’s top defensive lines, and potential elite talent sprinkled throughout the roster, but Caldwell inherits a team capable of competing right away.

The only drawbacks in Detroit center around the lack of salary cap space, so they’ll have to get creative this offseason, but with a solid draft, the Lions should be right in the middle of the NFC North race next season.

– Player markers are colored per class on a six-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.

Lineup DET

Roster Notes

–  The seemingly yearly tradition of waiting for the Lions to address their No. 2 wide receiver will continue this offseason. While the offense has a number of pieces in place with the solid Matthew Stafford, two backfield playmakers in Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, and of course elite wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the Lions will once again be in the market for an outside receiving complement, most likely through the draft.

–  Yet another Detroit rite of passage is the search for cornerback help. They’ve spent resources at the position both financially and through the draft, with youngsters Darius Slay and Dwight Bentley flanking Chris Houston in an underwhelming group. With limited cap space, this is yet another area that may need to be addressed come draft time.

–  The clear strength of the team is the defensive line, certainly not a bad place to build. Ndamukong Suh is among the best defensive tackles in the league while Nick Fairley is capable of joining him there in any given year. The Lions spent last year’s first round pick on DE Ezekial Ansah who showed well as a rookie and may join his colleagues in the green very soon. On the other side, we didn’t really get a chance to see what Jason Jones could do in Detroit’s scheme last season, but he’s historically been a much better player on the inside rather than as a 4-3 defensive end. With Suh and Fairley on the roster, his opportunities will be limited on the interior so until he proves his worth on the outside, he gets the orange label with upside.

–  With TE Brandon Pettigrew a free agent, the Lions are left with only Joseph Fauria at the position. Despite a nice rookie season that saw Fauria emerge as a red zone threat with seven touchdowns, they still have to address the position with a more traditional, every-down option.

–  Re-signing center Dominic Raiola ensures that a potentially solid offensive line remains intact. Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle came out of nowhere to claim his starting spot after going undrafted a year ago while fellow rookie Larry Warford emerged as one of the league’s best guards.  Detroit may look to get younger at left guard at some point as Rob Sims enters his ninth year in the league.

2014 Cap Situation

Not good. Before making cuts, the Lions are one of only five teams already over the cop according to, so some moves will have to be made. They have so much money tied up in contracts to Stafford, Johnson, and Suh, and with a potential extension for Fairley on the horizon, the Lions don’t look like they’ll be major players in free agency this offseason.

Potential Casualties

It appears inevitable that WR Nate Burleson will be cut given his $7 million+ cap number [update: shortly after posting this, Burelson was cut], but there are not a lot of other options for cap relief on the roster. Among the other possibilities, FS Louis Delmas would be a surprise cut, but he’d save the team around over $5 million on the cap while Sims is another possible option if a younger, cheaper left guard is drafted.

Opportunities from the Roster

We’re still waiting on a clean bill of health from WR Ryan Broyles, who has shown potential from the slot. The injuries are piling up as he heads into his third season, but if he can move forward, the Lions could have a valuable piece to their passing game. Rookie DE Devin Taylor made the most of his 308 snaps last season, putting himself in position to potentially steal some playing time from Jason Jones. He’ll continue to see time in the rotation at the very least and his run stopping ability should be a valuable asset on the already-loaded defensive front. After a decent start to his career, CB Jonte Green should have a chance to secure some playing time with CB Rashean Mathis moving on in free agency.


Projected lineups by team:



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| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Jason Pevitt

    It’s Bill Bentley not Dwight. And how on earth did you guys give Delmas a green rating??

    • Dallas

      Dwight is his real name, he prefers to go by Bill.

    • Thomas Holm

      Because Delmas actually had a decent season. Allowed only 43,8% of his targets to be completed.

      • D W

        He had a poor year.

        Okay, I thats a nice target % allowed, but on he did give up some huge completions, and missed a lot of tackles, and took a lot of bad angles.

        Not to mention that he should be red because he is about as injury prone as it gets.

        • Thomas Holm

          He missed 13 tackles which was tied for 15th most with 8 other safeties. The problem is that his tackle efficiency of 5,6 was tied at 60th out of 67 qualifying S. So yes, his tackling skills are pretty bad. And his -1,5 run def grade leaves something to be desired. Wether you like it or not, Delmas was pretty solid in coverage last season. He only got beat for 14 receptions and while those receptions went for 313 yards and 4 tds, there were 27 safeties who played 50% of their teams snaps to allow more yards and 63 safeties allowed more receptions. Delmas recorded 3 picks and 2 PDs and QBs had a passer rating of 79,8 when targeting Delmas.

          I agree that he is an injury risk and he has a history of inconsistency. He was not worth the 6 million paycheck and the Lions were right to release him, but there is a reason they wanna bring him back.

  • Jason Williams

    wasn’t Burleson released?

  • Eric Holland

    Who the hell is Clavin Johnson?!

  • Dave

    So Suh is your #2 rated DT and he’s not “elite”… not entirely sure how that makes sense.

    • Thomas Holm

      Because Suh hasnt reached this kind of play before. His work in the run game has been spotty in every season prior to this one. Elite is reserved for consistenly dominant players year in and year out. Would he continue this type a play for another year, he would be elevated to elite.

      • D W

        Well this is flawed.

        When asked to, ie, goaline or 3rd/4th and short situations, Suh is a stud against the run.

        Problem is, that he was previously asked to always rush upfield.

        This past year, Washburn tweaked the scheme a bit, and the Lions as a unit were much better against the run.

        Suh has always been a stud against the run, he was just asked to rush the passer.

        • Thomas Holm

          Thats a pretty lame excuse IMO. First off, you dont know that. I dont either. We can only analyze what we see on the field and throughout Suh’s career, his work against the run has left something to be desired. Other DTs like Geno Atkins and Gerald McCoy are dominant pass rusher and still manage to be stout against the run. He always had the ability, but i personally think he was undisciplined against the run until this year. Not only was last season the first season where Suh graded positively against the run (+8,9 his previous “high” was -3,1) it was also his best season as a pass rusher. +36,1 beat his previous high of +29,6 in 2012. So your argument is flawed, as he was an overall much better player in 2013 than any of his other seasons.

          • jack_sprat2

            Actually, we do know that. While Schwartz was notoriously closed-mouthed, Gunther Cunningham has a habit of revealing his emphases. He more than once, prior to last season, showed his impatience with the backers. He clearly expected THEM to pick up more than they were. You don’t pay $13 million a year for a tackle who thinks run first.

            He didn’t slack off on his effort to disrupt the pocket and get to the passer last season, which meant that he had to learn to diagnose the run AFTER he had committed to the pass, while being double-teamed. That’s not just elite play, that’s Reggie White territory. Now, if they’d give him a lot of time at the closed end, maybe his sack numbers would start to go up.

            Which reminds me of the analysis above of both Jason Jones and Taylor. The fact that they’re going 1/2-open, 1/2-closed should play right into their strengths. I really appreciate the deft way in which the new staff handled the issue. It’s an elegant adaptation of scheme to personnel. That beats the all-too-common stubborn tendency of many coaches to “prove” their concepts, even if they have to cut good players to do it.

          • tee

            You know little about the game yourself Thomas. If Suh isn’t elite than either is Brady or P Manning.

  • WTFReally?

    This is a terrible assessment. Have you ever watched a Lions game?

    • Hannah Hayes

      What is funny is that they have definitely watched more Lion’s football than all of us lol

  • SoSuhMe

    I don’t mean to come down to hard, because I know how difficult it can be to do these types of things. But I disagree in several areas.

    The colors for Jones and Broyles are essentially arbitrary at this point, we don’t know what to expect, or if they will even be starting.

    Pretty much every player on the OL deserves to be one bracket up from where you have them. They all played very well.

    Stafford and Bush should both probably have dark green outlines. Bush made some mistakes, but he still was fantastic. Over 1,500 combined rushing and receiving yards, good for 8th in the NFL. He had a career high number of fumbles lost, but there’s not much reason to think that will continue. He’ll also have a chance to improve chemistry with Stafford to decrease the drops.

    Stafford is a high potential player. I don’t know how anyone can say otherwise.

    You were pretty generous to Fauria.

    Bentley got a little better this year. He might deserve a yellow outline. Slay might also deserve a light green outline, but those are both debatable. Houston on the other hand might deserve to go down to orange.

    Levy seriously deserves a dark green border. He was awesome. 6 INTs as an LB (actually, 7, one was called back thanks to Suh, and it was a pick-6), 8 tackles for a loss, and 15 passes defended? He was excellent, and really deserved a Pro Bowl trip but for name recognition. Next year.

    Delmas might not deserve the light green. I saw your reply about him in the comments here, but it had less to do with that and more to do with the plethora of missed tackles and interceptions that he should have made. He was just a non-factor in too many games.

    That’s it.

    • S.A.M.

      Come on, man! We’ve been over this! The Levy’s INT still counted after Suh’s penalty. Only the TD was revoked.

      • SoSuhMe

        Haha, my bad. I always forget.

    • jack_sprat2

      While your points are mostly valid, so were the judgments with which you take issue, for the most part. In Levy’s case, too much of your argument depends on random good fortune. Sure, he’s good enough to make those picks, but his impact will go down, now that offenses realize that he has a strong safety’s instincts. Useful, but bye-bye go the turn-overs. Good calls on Houston, Delmas and Fauria, though. Bush? Check his personal calendar. Tick-tock. As for Stafford, pretty much everyone agrees. It’s too bad that he spent the past five years without coaching in his mechanics. Can’t blame him for that; he’s a company man. I’m not willing to just believe in the evidence of things unseen, however. When he demonstrates that he can and will change, only then will I buy the Kool-Aid.

  • Colton Blackmon

    Lions also waived Delmas yesterday.

  • Bryan

    Dominic Raiola should be underline for the fact that he is 35.