3 Members of Lions' Defense Could See Decreased Snap Counts

These three players on the Detroit Lions roster could see a reduction in their playing time in 2021.
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The Detroit Lions' 2021 offseason has been marked by a flurry of changes. 

The team's new regime -- led by first-year general manager Brad Holmes -- has begun to place its stamp on the roster, moving on from and adding a variety of players this offseason, including seven via this year's NFL Draft. 

Even since the draft ended for Detroit this past Saturday, the activity hasn't stopped. 

Most recently, Holmes & Co. signed veteran tight end Darren Fells to replace the retiring Josh Hill, and waived 2018 second-round pick Kerryon Johnson. 

With all the moves, there are certainly returning Lions players that will be in store for decreased snap counts this upcoming season. 

Let's take a closer look now at the three individuals, specifically on defense, that will see their snap totals affected the most by Detroit's busy offseason. 

LB Jahlani Tavai 

Detroit's 2019 second-round pick already wasn't good a season ago, and then the front office went out and traded up to draft Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes in the fourth round (No. 113 overall) this past weekend. 

It can't mean anything positive for Tavai's snap count heading into the '21 campaign. 

With a good training camp and strong start to the season, Barnes has a solid chance of supplanting Tavai as the starter at middle linebacker. Also, remember that the Lions added former New Orleans Saints linebacker Alex Anzalone for depth purposes earlier this offseason. 

All of this could easily make Tavai the odd man out in Detroit's linebackers room. 


DL Da'Shawn Hand 

Hand, a fourth-round pick of the organization in 2018, hasn't had much of an impact on the Lions since he burst on to the scene as a rookie. 

During his first year in the league, the 6-foot-3, 297-pounder recorded 27 combined tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles in 13 games (eight starts). 

However, since then, he's only played in 13 additional games, and has totaled just 25 tackles, to go along with two tackles for loss, a single forced fumble and zero sacks. 

With a new regime, the 25-year-old might have already been in store for a smaller role with the team. But, now after Detroit decided to use back-to-back picks on defensive linemen in this year's draft -- Levi Onwuzurike in the second round (No. 41 overall) and Alim McNeill in the third round (No. 72 overall) -- there's no doubt that Hand is due for a snap count decrease. 

DL John Penisini 

Here's another defensive lineman who's expected to suffer a decline in his snap total due to what the Lions did in the draft over the weekend. 

As a rookie in 2020, he amassed 35 total tackles, including four for loss, and a sack in 16 games (12 starts). 

It was a solid first season for the '20 sixth-round pick, so his dropoff in playing time might not be as significant as the two players above him on this list. 

However, the additions of Onwuzurike and McNeill will certainly play a factor in the number of snaps Penisini garners in 2021, and should at least lead to a slight decrease for the Utah product.