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3 Under-the-Radar Defensive Players on Lions' 2021 Roster

Don't discount the potential contributions of these three members of the Detroit Lions' defense.

First-year Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes' makeover of the defense is in full swing.  

He's added defensive linemen Michael Brockers, Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike this offseason, all in attempt to upgrade not only the Lions' porous pass-rush but also the team's subpar run defense from last season. 

Those are some of the bigger acquisitions Holmes made to aid the defense going into 2021. 

However, his defense will also rely upon some unheralded players, or under-the-radar guys for production on a weekly basis. 

Without further ado, here are three of those players that don't necessarily draw the headlines, like Brockers or a pass-rusher of Romeo Okwara's caliber, but will be key to Detroit's success on the defensive side of the ball this upcoming season. 

LB Alex Anzalone 

Anzalone comes over from the New Orleans Saints, where he spent the last four seasons with new Lions head coach Dan Campbell. 

In Detroit's 3-4 base defense, the 26-year-old is expected to garner some significant playing time, at least as a reserve. 

He's started no more than nine games in a single season (which came last year), but he's proven to be effective when he's had the chance to suit up. 

A season ago, the University of Florida product amassed 41 total tackles, including three tackles for loss. 

Expect first-year Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, also formerly of the Saints, to carve out a bigger role for Anzalone in Motown. 

DT John Penisini 

The second-year defensive lineman had a solid rookie campaign, after being taken by former Detroit general manager Bob Quinn in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. 

It was far from according to plan, but the Utah product ended up starting in 12 games -- and he suited up for all 16 of them. He made the most of his opportunity, too. 

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He produced 35 total tackles, including four tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery. 

Entering the 2021 campaign, the 24-year-old is expected to have a great shot at landing the starting nose tackle position, which was occupied by Danny Shelton a year ago. 

Subsequently, it'll be interesting to see if Penisini takes another step forward in his career development this upcoming season.  


S Will Harris 

A year ago, Duron Harmon and Tracy Walker were the safeties that garnered all the attention on Detroit's roster. Expect that to change this upcoming season, though, as Harmon is gone and Harris is expected to start at strong safety. 

With that said, Harris will need to produce better results than he did in 2020. 

The third-year pro produced just 35 total tackles and one pass defensed in 16 games (five starts) last season. 

If the 25-year-old intends on keeping his starting gig, he'll need to contribute in a much bigger fashion in 2021. 

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