Lions' Day 1 Starter Projections

Here is a list of the 11 starters for the Detroit Lions on offense and defense.
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The NFL Draft and the initial wave of free agency have passed. That’s not to say there still aren’t plenty of players available on the open market and that trades can’t be made. But, the Detroit Lions' roster is taking shape. 

Lions general manager Brad Holmes won’t be able to fix all of Detroit's problems in one offseason. Keep that in mind, as we look at what his starting lineup -- on both sides of the ball -- would look like right now.

OFFENSE:

  • QB - Jared Goff
  • RB - D’Andre Swift
  • WR - Tyrell Williams
  • WR - Breshad Perriman
  • Slot - Amon-Ra St. Brown
  • TE - T.J. Hockenson
  • LT - Taylor Decker
  • LG - Jonah Jackson
  • C - Frank Ragnow
  • RG - Halapoulivaati Vaitai
  • RT - Penei Sewell

Breakdown: The Lions have a real solid group along the offensive line. In theory, it could create a very formidable rushing attack, which would make life much easier on Goff. Goff’s best years came with a solid rushing attack. 

The concern is at the wideout position -- where the Lions may have the worst receiver talent in the NFL. Outside of the slot receiver spot, there doesn’t appear to be all that much debate on who should be the starter, though. St. Brown is NFL ready with his style of play, and his fourth-round status makes him a favorite to see plenty of playing time on the inside. There is always the chance that an inevitable injury or relative surprise player could force his way into the starting lineup somewhere, as well. 

Lastly, it seems highly unlikely, but Holmes himself said Sewell would compete at right tackle. Barring a complete underwhelming performance in training camp, Sewell should be able to push Tyrell Crosby back into his more natural swing-tackle role.

DEFENSE:

  • DE - Trey Flowers
  • NT - Alim McNeill
  • DT - Michael Brockers
  • OLB - Romeo Okwara
  • LB - Jamie Collins
  • LB - Alex Anzalone
  • OLB - Julian Okwara
  • CB - Jeff Okudah
  • SS – Will Harris
  • FS- Tracy Walker
  • CB – Amani Oruwariye

BREAKDOWN: The defensive side of the ball isn’t nearly as clear-cut as the offense, mostly due to scheme flexibility and situational packages. There will be plenty of rotation, despite head coach Dan Campbell proclaiming a 3-4 base for the team's defense. The nickel package is probably the defense most used. Adding a slot corner, like Corn Elder, and taking off either a defensive lineman or a linebacker will probably be the most commonly used formation.

Along the defensive front, the Lions will likely use Flowers a lot more inside as a 5-tech, and rotate him to the more prototypical 4-3 defensive end or 3-tech position in even fronts. Same with Romeo Okwara. In the 3-4, he can stand up, and can serve as an outside linebacker as a pass-rusher. He can also line up as a 4-3 defensive end in those certain looks. His brother Julian also has some flexibility, but he seems like a more natural 3-4 outside linebacker in this supposed scheme.

As far as the interior defensive line, McNeill is a true nose tackle, with the versatility to move around. His skill set should give him the leg up to start. Prior to the draft, incumbent nose tackle John Penisini was the favorite for that role, but he is strictly a run-stuffing tackle who lines over the center or in the A-gap. The further out you go along the line, that leaves a bit of a logjam among Flowers, Brockers, second-rounder Levi Onwuzurike and the once-promising Da'Shawn Hand, depending on alignment.

The off-ball linebackers will also be swapped out plenty. More often than not, there will only be two on the field, which would leave Collins and Anzalone seeing a majority of the reps.

On the backend, safeties Tracy Walker and Will Harris both underwhelmed last season. Despite that, the Lions still didn’t address the need in the draft. Free-agent acquisition Dean Marlowe is a threat for Harris’ job, if Harris doesn't improve.

Last but not least, let's look at the outside corners. It’s a two-person race between Okudah, Oruwariye and free-agent acquisition Quinton Dunbar. Given that it’s a rebuilding year and the Lions need to evaluate their younger talent, Dunbar should be the veteran reserve, unless either Okudah or Oruwariye really drop the ball.