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Lions' Updated Defensive Depth Chart

Examining current state of Detroit's defense.

Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes spent a significant amount of resources on upgrading the defense early this offseason. With the new league year beginning Wednesday, the organization has already added several key pieces to the defense. 

By signing Marcus Davenport, Amik Robertson and DJ Reader and trading for Carlton Davis, Detroit's defense has been rebuffed with veteran talent. 

With talented pieces already on the roster, the organization seems to be in good shape for the upcoming 2024 season. 

Here's an updated look at what defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn's group may look like in 2024.

Defensive end (2)

Starters: Aidan Hutchinson, John Cominsky

Backups: Josh Paschal, Marcus Davenport, James Houston, Mathieu Betts, Mitchell Agude

I'll give the edge to Cominsky right now given his overall body of work, but Paschal showed plenty of flashes late in the year and Davenport can be a difference-maker if healthy. 

Houston's development was stunted by his injury, so his return will be worth keeping an eye on in his third season. 

Defensive tackle

Starter: Alim McNeill

Backups: Levi Onwuzurike, Chris Smith

McNeill was on a Pro Bowl trajectory before his injury last year. After a strong offseason last year, he reaped the benefits of being in better shape and more athletic. 

He's among the top candidates to surge in 2024, especially with the addition of Reader. Onwuzurike is entering the final year of his rookie deal but has played just 26 games in three years. This will be a big season for the Washington product. 

Nose tackle

Starter: DJ Reader

Backup: Brodric Martin

Reader is a huge addition. In addition to plugging up the middle, he'll serve as a veteran mentor for Martin, who played in just three games last year. 

The veteran brings legitimate pass-rush ability and can take some of the attention off Aidan Hutchinson and McNeill. 

MIKE linebacker

Starter: Jack Campbell

Backup: Derrick Barnes

After finishing the 2023 campaign strong, it's time for Campbell to jump into the starting lineup. Barnes won't go down without a fight, however, and both should play plenty in different packages. 

WILL linebacker

Starter: Alex Anzalone

Backups: Malcolm Rodriguez, Jalen Reeves-Maybin

Anzalone has developed into one of the team's top leaders as well as a defensive stalwart. Rodriguez, meanwhile, saw his role lessen with the addition of Campbell last year. 

However, the Oklahoma State product is a valuable member of the special teams units, as is Reeves-Maybin. 

Cornerback (2)

Starters: Carlton Davis, Cam Sutton

Backups: Amik Robertson, Emmanuel Moseley, Craig James, Khalil Dorsey, Steven Gilmore

The Lions identified this position as a one of clear need and have gotten better at it. Davis brings plenty of experience covering top wideouts, while Robertson matches the team's physicality despite being undersized. 

With this in mind, it still wouldn't be surprising to see the Lions continue to look for more high-end caliber talent through the Draft


Starter: Brian Branch

Backup: None

Branch owned the nickel role from day one last season, which in part allowed the Lions to be comfortable with the departure of Ceedy Duce. Depth at this position can be created somewhat, as Detroit could simply train one of its defensive backs to take on the responsibility. 

Safety (2)

Starters: Kerby Joseph, Ifeatu Melifonwu

Backup: Brandon Joseph

Joseph has established himself as one of the NFL's biggest ballhawks with eight interceptions in his first two seasons. The Lions will have to find depth, but Joseph gives them a very solid option. 

Melifonwu, meanwhile, broke out of his shell in 2023 late in the year. His ability to time blitzes and be a factor in multiple ways was exactly what the Lions' defense needed. 

The Lions elevated Joseph for three games early in the year and were able to retain him on a futures contract.