The Detroit Lions had Alex Karras in the 1960s.
The Minnesota Vikings had Alan Page in the ’70s.
The Chicago Bears had Richard Dent in the ’80s.
And the Green Bay Packers had Reggie White in the ’90s.
At some point, every team in the NFC North has boasted royalty along its defensive line.
[ The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content. ]
For subscribers: How Okudah, Trufant meshed at Thursday’s practice
Last year, the Lions’ defensive linemen looked a lot less like princes and a lot more like paupers as they struggled to stop the run or sack the quarterback. The Lions were 20th in the NFL last season in rushing yards allowed and 31st in sacks.
New Lions defensive tackle Nick Williams wants to change his unit’s performance as well as the perception that division rivals have of the D-line.
And he should know. He played for the Bears the past two seasons before he signed a two-year, $10-million deal with the Lions in March.
“Man, they hungry for it,” Williams said Thursday about his fellow Lions defensive linemen. “We know the record. We know it’s a pecking order in the NFC North and we’re here to change that this year. They’re very hungry, very well-coached with Bo Davis.
[ How Jahlani Tavai will make more plays in 2020 after splashy rookie season ]
“We’re just ready to get out there and prove to the NFC North, to the black-and-blue division, that we can play good football. And we can. We’ve got the pieces, we’ve got a defense to be able to do that. We believe in ourselves, we believe in each other. And the more we’re on the field with each other, the more confidence we’ll have in each other and we’ll get the job done.”
As the highest-paid defensive lineman after Trey Flowers, Williams is expected to be a catalyst for that improvement. Last year he led the Bears’ defensive linemen with 42 tackles and his six sacks were second only to Khalil Mack’s 8.5.
[ The Free Press has started a digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive sports content. ]
Williams is confident, but he’s far from content with his own performance. He knows his teammates are counting on him, which is why he wants to strive for even greater things.
“It’s a good feeling but I can’t get too lackadaisical with it,” he said of his leadership role. “My mindset is not to take my foot off the gas pedal, keep moving forward, keep working on things that I know can help this team win. And work on those things that I’ve been lacking in in the past.
“So I think just staying on top of my game, keeping that drive, keeping that hunger to want to be a great defensive lineman can help this team win.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.