3 Lions That Will Exceed Expectations in 2020
Going into the 2020 season, the Detroit Lions will need plenty of young and underrated players to step up in a big way for the year to be a success.
Now, everyone has different expectations, as they, overall wise, can be subjective.
Here are three Lions who I feel will be pleasant surprises:
1.) DB Jayron Kearse
General manager Bob Quinn gave the former Minnesota Vikings defensive back a one-year, $2.75 million contract this offseason. Not exactly big money that is indicative of a key contributor on defense.
Likely, Kearse was brought in for his special teams prowess.
However, he's currently penciled in as the fourth safety on the depth chart, and he is a versatile safety with rare size.
In 2019, Pro Football Focus graded Kearse as the fourth-best safety in the entire NFL.
Kearse can line up all over the field, but lined up the most covering in the slot and so much so that PFF actually re-labeled his position to corner.
With no more Tavon Wilson, the Lions' strong safety position is up for grabs.
It would make sense that Will Harris get the first crack at replacing the veteran due to his third-round draft status. But, Kearse has the skill set to make an impact as well.
If Harris can’t carve out a role, Kearse has already proven he can be a real asset in the box.
2.) CB Amani Oruwariye
Oruwariye is a bit of the forgotten man in the cornerback group.
Going into the draft last year, many pundits had Oruwariye projected as a Day 2 selection.
He slipped to the fifth round before the Lions scooped him up.
He struggled to find the field his rookie season, yet made the most of it when he did.
Now, after the addition of the No. 3 overall pick this year in Jeff Okudah and free-agent acquisition Desmond Trufant, Oruwariye is the third wheel at outside corner.
You hope that the two projected starters can remain healthy all season, but that is probably unlikely.
Also, in a passing league, teams can never have enough cornerbacks.
Oruwariye will inevitably get his chance once again, and if he can develop enough to limit his coverage miscues, he has the potential to be a really nice depth piece that could be the future at the position opposite of Okudah.
3.) LB Jarrad Davis
Davis is an odd selection for this list –- let me explain.
First off, Davis had sky-high expectations coming into the league as a first-round pick.
As much as he has struggled throughout his career, it’s almost as if the script has totally flipped on him.
Many are writing him off as a bust and as a player who can’t contribute much to the defense.
One reason I believe he will have one of his better -- or should I say more efficient -- seasons is because I think his responsibilities on the defense are shrinking.
There have been times in the past where Davis has put together real nice strings of games -- mostly due to the coaching staff limiting what it puts on his plate.
This season, the Lions added Jamie Collins who will likely be their coverage linebacker.
Davis has really struggled in the coverage department throughout his tenure in the NFL.
For reference, PFF graded Davis at a 32.6 grade when dropping into coverage in 2019 -- fourth-lowest among all NFL off-ball linebackers.
When the Lions wanted to give one of their linebackers the tough task of playing in space in past seasons, they typically relied on Davis. That should no longer be the case, except on occasions.
By no means am I saying that Davis is going to be some elite defender.
I just don’t believe he will grade out as one of the worst linebackers in the league, either.
He still has his flaws, but his strengths can now be accentuated and weaknesses mitigated with the personnel around him.
As a result, there will be fewer negative plays and hopefully, some flashes here and there of why he was a first-round pick a few short years ago.