Three underrated defenders for the Lions defense

USA Today

With the Detroit Lions and several other teams having mini-camps and off-season workouts over the last few weeks, it opens the door for predictions on each teams roster.

For the Lions, there’s a belief that their team has gotten better this off-season. I would agree with that, specifically with their defense. By adding Ennis Rakestraw and Terrion Arnold, they appear to have a long-term plan at cornerback for the first time in a long time.

Those aren’t the only two players the Lions have added to their defense. There are several other defenders that they’ve drafted and signed or traded for in free agency. Let’s take a look at three defenders that are underrated right now but they could have a huge impact this season for the Lions!

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DL Mekhi Wingo

Drafted in the 6th round of the 2024 NFL Draft, Wingo adds depth to the Lions revamped defensive line. Despite being undersized as an interior defensive lineman, Wingo provides power and versatility for the Lions.

At the Scouting Combine, Wingo put up 225 pounds a total of 25 times and it shows on tape with his ability to bull-rush offensive lineman. Additionally, he played in multiple spots along the LSU defensive front. In his 22 games played for the Tigers, he was able to compile 71 tackles with 11 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.

Even though Wingo may not contribute right away, there could be an opportunity for him to have a serious role later in the season for Detroit. There’s some uncertainty on what role Levi Onwuzurike will have but he’s also dealt with injuries early in his career. In addition to his injuries, the health of D.J. Reader could be a factor as he’s dealt with consecutive seasons with torn quads.

Lastly, what type of season will the Lions get from Brodric Martin? He arrived at camp this year in shape and looks much stronger from his rookie season. Meanwhile, he appears to be motivated by Lions veterans of Alim McNeill and D.J. Reader. But if an injury occurs or a player’s conditioning comes into question, I could see a path for Wingo to carve out a role this season.

After all, the Lions lost Benito Jones to the Miami Dolphins in free agency and he played 567 defensive snaps (51.92%) last season. Even though he probably won’t eat up all those snaps, there could be more contribution from Wingo than originally expected. With that, he could be one of the more underrated defenders on the Lions roster.

CB Amik Robertson

Adding to the list of underrated players, we could see a scenario where Amik Robertson rarely leaves the field for Detroit. Signed on a two-year deal, Robertson brings experience and an aggressive style of play to the Lions defense that will be coveted.

Last season, he started in 12 games for the Raiders and he played 675 defensive snaps (59.58%). Over the last two seasons, he’s started 19 games and has only allowed 78 receptions during that span.

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Much of the reasoning to why Robertson may rarely leave the field is due to my thought of the Lions playing more nickel and dime packages than they have in the past. They have more depth in their secondary than year’s past but they’ve also got two rookie cornerbacks that could ease into their roles. Especially Ennis Rakestraw Jr., who was selected in the second round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

In addition to this, the Lions defensive snap leader a season ago was Cameron Sutton with 1,077 snaps (98.6%). Sure, they traded for cornerback Carlton Davis but if there’s any type of injury to Davis, that makes Robertson that much more valuable. Look for him to be overlooked but don’t be surprised if he has strong contributions to the defense.

EDGE Marcus Davenport

Now this one may be a stretch but if Marcus Davenport can stay healthy, he should be able to produce at a relatively high level for Detroit. After all, he’s not the first defensive end the Lions have spent a one-year contract on for them to earn another contract with the team.

John Cominksy and Charles Harris are perfect examples of that.

While the Lions have since moved on from Charles Harris, he did play 292 defensive snaps (26.74%) last season. Meanwhile, John Cominsky played 569 defensive snaps (52.11%) last season. If healthy, it wouldn’t be surprising if Cominsky and Davenport split those snaps.

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For Davenport, he only played 118 snaps last season and was placed on injured reserve after suffering a high ankle sprain in week 6. If there’s anyway he can tap into the player that he used to be, we’ll see a defensive end that plays well laterally but is also able to turn speed-to-power consistently.

When he’s able to do that, the results are there. From 2018 to 2021, he compiled 21 total sacks. We should all remain hopeful that Davenport can become that player once again. Especially since he’ll be paired with defensive end Aidan Hutchinson for most of this season.

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