General manager Bob Quinn said at the NFL combine that the talent level on the Detroit Lions needs to improve. The team missed the playoffs last season -- something familiar to Lions fans but unfamiliar to Quinn, who came from New England.
When he was discussing the team’s need for improvement, he rattled off a bunch of areas -- offensive line, tight end, running back, the secondary, defensive line and linebackers.
Free agency opened a couple of weeks ago and the Lions have not addressed a lot of those areas yet.
“There’s a lot of areas on the team that need to improve, not just the offensive line. I mean, you can go across the board to the running back position, the tight end position, the defensive line, the secondary, the linebackers. I mean, you name it, some of the specialists (too),” Quinn said last month. “It’s a team. This team didn’t make the playoffs last year, there’s a reason for that. So, the talent level needs to improve and that’s why I’m here. Hopefully, we can improve the team -- whether it’s free agency, whether it’s the draft, there’s dozens of other avenues that I’m going to use every year to improve this team.
“So, you know, I know the draft and free agency get all the media buzz and I respect that because it’s a big story, but there’s dozens of others ways that we can acquire players and talent.”
With that in mind, here are the five biggest holes to fill for Detroit. And remember, teams change their rosters all the time. Heck, former cornerback Rashean Mathis wasn’t signed until training camp in 2013, and the Lions brought defensive end George Johnson in during the spring of 2014.
1.Offensive tackle: The Lions have said multiple times that they need to improve their O-line, and it just hasn’t happened yet. Detroit lost out on Russell Okung, although that may not be a bad thing considering his injury history. But the top tackles are now off the board. A trade is always possible -- Okung’s signing, for instance, likely means Denver’s Ryan Clady is available. But this looks like a position Detroit will need to address early in the draft.
2.Defensive end: Quinn focused on the interior early, re-signing Tyrunn Walker and Haloti Ngata and bringing in Stefan Charles from Buffalo. Those names might not sound exciting, but interior defensive linemen hardly ever are. The Lions need to add some depth here, as Ezekiel Ansah, Devin Taylor and Kerry Hyder are the only ends on the roster right now. There is room to make moves, whether bringing back their own free agents Darryl Tapp and Jason Jones or looking elsewhere. Don't be surprised if this area gets addressed in the draft, too.
3.Linebacker: Bringing back Tahir Whitehead gives Detroit someone who could theoretically start, but he also has special teams capabilities. The Lions need to add some speed at this position. Stephen Tulloch remains on the roster, someone Lions coach Jim Caldwell is certainly going to be asked about at the owners' meetings this week. Keep in mind, this is a position where there are still some veteran options out there.
4.Wide receiver: Marvin Jones was a good signing, about the best the Lions could do under the circumstances. But the team still needs depth here. The Lions brought in Jordan Norwood for a visit last week, a clear sign there’s interest in upgrading behind Jones and Golden Tate. Every player behind those two are unproven.
5.Running back: There's less of a need here considering the Lions have Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, but Detroit could use a veteran who can run consistently between the tackles. Zach Zenner showed promise here, but the Lions might want to bring in someone to compete with him. Alfred Morris, LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley are among the unsigned players at this position.