Looking at the Lions radical roster overhaul from the 2020 finale to now

USA Today

When the 2020 season ended and Lions owner Sheila Hamp kicked off the franchise overhaul, the team was in a very bad place. Radical changes needed to happen to everything, from the front office to the coaching staff, right down to almost every player in the starting lineup.

It took a little time, but that humiliating end to the Bob Quinn/Matt Patricia regime (they were fired before the end of the 2020 season) is but a distant memory in Detroit. The Lions are coming off the best season in the Super Bowl era and first-ever NFC North division title in 2023.

To get an idea of just how far the franchise has come, it’s worth a look back down to the bottom of the barrel that was the 2020 campaign. That year finished with a 5-11 record and a point differential of -142, the worst for any Detroit team since the 2009 season that kicked off a prior, failed rebuild.

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This was the starting lineup in the final game of the 2020 season, a 37-35 loss in Ford Field to the Minnesota Vikings. First, the offense and where they are now

2020 finale – offense

QB – Matthew Stafford (Rams)

RB – D’Andre Swift (Bears)

TE – T.J. Hockenson (Vikings)

LT – Taylor Decker (Lions)

LG – Jonah Jackson (Rams)

C – Frank Ragnow (Lions)

RG – Oday Aboushi (FA)

RT – Halapoulivaati Vaitai (FA)

WR – Marvin Jones (retired)

WR – Mohamed Sanu (retired)

WR – Jamal Agnew (FA)

Decker and Ragnow, the Lions’ first-round picks in 2016 and 2018, respectively, are the only offensive starters still in Detroit. Both are coming off exceptional 2023 campaigns.

Detroit traded away Stafford, Hockenson and Swift–all before the 2023 season. Jackson left as a free agent after the ’23 campaign, in which he was the Lions’ regular starting left guard. Vaitai was on injured reserve in 2023 and is presumed to be retired, while Aboushi was not on any roster last season.

Of the depth players who saw action in that 2020 finale on offense, only Dan Skipper remains with the Lions. The reserve OL left Detroit for two other teams in the stead but returned, too. In fact, no other Lion who appeared on offense in that game was with the team after the 2022 season.

Defense

Spoiler alert: None of the players here are left in Detroit. In fact, only two of the starters were still with the Lions in 2023–and neither started last year.

DL – Danny Shelton

DL – John Penisini

DL – Nick Williams

OLB – Romeo Okwara

OLB – Christian Jones

LB – Jahlani Tavai

LB – Reggie Ragland

CB – Darryl Roberts

CB – Amani Oruwariye

S – Duron Harmon

S – Tracy Walker

As of July 6th, only Tavai (Patriots) and Oruwariye (Jaguars) are on any NFL rosters, though Walker is a free agent still looking. Nearly all the other defensive players have retired.

Reserve LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin is still with Detroit, though he spent one season with the Houston Texans before returning to the Lions. Reserve safety C.J. Moore missed the 2023 season due to a gambling suspension and was released, but he’s now efforting a return on the Lions roster for 2024. Of the other reserves from that game, only Will Harris (now in New Orleans) was with the Lions after 2021.

It’s no wonder the 2021 season was a rough one for Detroit. Pretty much everything except the core offensive line had to go–and did. GM Brad Holmes, head coach Dan Campbell and their staff had almost nothing to work with on defense, and needed to move on from valuable offensive players like Stafford and Hockenson for the greater good.

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