This season has been nothing but negative, so today, let’s look on the bright side of life.
The words “rebuild” and “patience” are so entrenched in our lexicon that they’ve become stale, but that’s the truth. The Detroit Lions aren’t going to be good for another season or two, and no amount of complaining or self-loathing will change that. I’ve done my fair share of both of those, so with the bye upcoming, I want to say some nice things.
Consider this therapy.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
What are you encouraged by this season?
My answer: I am encouraged by the play of this young secondary.
The star of the secondary has been Tracy Walker, one of the “veterans” at just 26-years old. He had rebounded extremely well with the transition from Matt Patricia to Aaron Glenn, and he seems to have recaptured the form of his promising rookie campaign. He might not have an interception this season, but his play extends beyond that. He’s been strong as a run defender—sadly, many running backs are reaching the secondary—and in coverage, he looks far more comfortable than last year.
The real surprises in the secondary have been the performance of their undrafted players. This year’s rookies, Jerry Jacobs and AJ Parker, have far exceeded our expectations. Projected to be special teams depth, they have stepped into starting roles and are holding up admirably well. Parker is dealing with a neck injury and missed this latest game against the Eagles, but a bye week should hopefully have him returning to the lineup. Jacobs was a student of Jeff Okudah this training camp, and he’s been solid across from Amani Oruwariye.
Last year’s undrafted rookies are making a mark too. Bobby Price saw plenty of action early on, although he’s been stuck behind Jacobs in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Jalen Elliott was called up from the practice squad the last two weeks and he saw a sizeable number of snaps against Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, there are still concerns with some of the other youngsters.
The most notable blow to this secondary came when Jeff Okudah tore his Achilles. I still maintain that he’s a promising corner prospect, but an injury like that makes me nervous about his future. I hope he can fully recover because I’d love to have him in this secondary.
Speaking of injured players, Ifeatu Melifonwu shined in his lone start against Green Bay, but an injury forced him out. He may return sometime this year, so there is a positive, but it is otherwise a lost rookie season. He was viewed as a project entering the draft, so not seeing immediate returns doesn’t concern me too much.
Another question mark has been Amani Oruwariye. He has been a middling starter for Detroit these past few seasons, and while that’s still good to have, I was always hoping for more. He excited me as a prospect, but the shutdown play we saw as a rookie hasn’t translated to his full-time role. He’s still just 25 years old, so there’s plenty of promise to go with the experience.
A player that hasn’t been middling is Will Harris. Three years into his career and most of it has been a disappointment. He’s still on a cheap rookie deal, so I wouldn’t advocate for cutting him, but his time as a starting safety has been poor. Whereas Walker was able to rebound under a new defensive scheme, Harris’s struggles continue, and he doesn’t look like a starter, now or in the future.
Look, I’ve gone and written a few negative paragraphs. I’m sorry, it’s hard to avoid that.
Instead, I want to wrap this up with Aaron Glenn and Aubrey Pleasant. For two coaches dealt bad blow after bad blow, the secondary continues to punch above their weight. Entering the season, this secondary was expected to be bad. After all these injuries, the secondary was expected to be even worse. Instead, they’re putting together decent outings given the circumstances. Glenn and Pleasant deserve all the credit for making due with the current roster.
With a full offseason, some healing, and a few extra signings or draft picks, the secondary is perhaps the most promising aspect of this team.