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Detroit Lions defensive line breakdown 2018

Detroit Lions defensive line

In the NFL, getting to and disrupting the quarterback often equates to contending for a championship. The defensive line is a great place to build a defense around.

The Detroit Lions defensive line is an area of need. Expect the team to add to the defensive line during free agency and the draft. The Lions have been searching for a dominant interior presence since the departure of Ndamukong Suh.


The Lions filled this coaching position with 24-year coaching veteran Bo Davis. Davis played for the LSU Tigers (1990-92) and the majority of his coaching career has been at the collegiate level. He has coached the defensive line at Alabama (2007-10, 2014-15) and Texas (2011-13). Last season, he coached the defensive line at the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA).

Davis brings a new face to a group that needs an infusion of excitement and enthusiasm. The time he spent at Alabama and Texas produced some great NFL defensive linemen. Thus, the hope is he can bring that prestigious reputation and production to Detroit.

Notable defensive linemen on the Roster

Ezekiel Ansah

Detroit Lions defensive line
Ezekiel Ansah celebrates one of his three sacks against Green Bay in Week 17, a 35-11 victory. (Photo by Jose Juarez, AP)

Ansah is the leader of the defensive line. His production on the field has been up and down throughout his career. He continually is double-teamed, and the opposing offenses gameplan to minimize his effectiveness.

It will be interesting to see how new coach, Matt Patricia, uses him. Fans should expect to see Ansah with his hand off the ground as an edge rusher at a higher rate. This will allow him to get loose and keep offensive linemen’s hands off him.

With his combination of length, strength and quickness, it makes sense to allow him to create plays in space.

Kerry Hyder

Hyder had a breakout season in 2016. Unfortunately, an injury ended his 2017 season before it could get started. He looks to bounce back in 2018 and continue to build on his 2016 season.

General manager Bob Quinn and the Lions’ new coaching staff showed their support by re-signing Hyder to a one-year deal in hopes he can quickly recover from the injury.

A’Shawn Robinson

Robinson had an opportunity to step up and prove his worth with Haloti Ngata’s season-ending injury. He stepped up and showed he was well worth the second-round pick in the 2016 draft.

Whether it was the interception return for a touchdown or his ability to be a stopgap in the run defense, he seems to have laid the foundation as a potential centerpiece for years to come.

Anthony Zettel

Detroit Lions defensive line
Anthony Zettel sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum. (Photo by AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Zettel is a local product out of Northern Michigan and has quickly become a fan favorite. The Penn State product came to the Lions in the 2016 NFL draft as a sixth-round pick.

After playing in only 13 games as a rookie in 2016 and recording only one sack, Zettel started all 16 games in 2017. He put together a respectable sophomore campaign, tallying 6.5 sacks. He played a big part in the win against the division champions, Minnesota Vikings, posting two sacks.

Zettel showed a lot of promise, and the organization is hoping he can continue to grow from his 2017 season. Thus, there is much love from fans for the Ogemaw Heights High School product out of West Branch, Michigan.

Free Agency and draft

Free agency

The Lions have been farily quiet across the board in free agency. They have not pursued the top-flight free agents as many fans had hoped. However, signing veteran players with Super Bowl experience could pay off more than an expensive, big-name player.

Ultimately, the Lions seem to be seeking veteran experience rather than pure talent. So far, the Lions have added defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and have plans to meet with Alan Branch and Johnathan Hankins. Along with Branch, the New England connection appears to be in full effect with the potential signing of defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois. Hankins and Branch also have ties to the Detroit area.

Furthermore, Branch played at the University of Michigan and has ties to Patricia as he was in New England for the past four seasons. Also, Hankins is from Dearborn Heights, Michigan and played at Southeastern High School in Detroit.


There were a few big names in free agency, such as Suh and Dontari Poe, that the Lions did not actively pursue. This supports the idea they must like their chances at landing their man in the draft. Based on value and likelihood of availability, there are five defensive linemen they could take in the first two rounds.

Detroit Lions defensive line
(Photo by Glenn Andrews, AP Photo)
  1. Da’Ron Payne (DT) – Alabama
  2. Taven Bryan (DT) – Florida
  3. Marcus Davenport (DE) – University of Texas San Antonio
  4. Maurice Hurst (DT) – Michigan
  5. Harrison Phillips (DT) – Stanford

Payne, Bryan and Davenport could all likely be first-round selections with the 20th pick. However, if the Lions go a different direction in the first round, such as offensive line or defensive back, they could find a steal in Hurst or Phillips if they happen to be available in the second round.

Hurst could very well fall to them due to his heart condition that prevented him from performing at the combine. Davenport could be a real possibility with the Lions first pick as he was coached by Bo Davis at UTSA last season and is considered a great athlete.


The Detroit Lions’ season will hinge on the play of the defensive line, as is the case with most teams. The new scheme is still somewhat unknown, although we can speculate it will be a multi-defensive system that focuses on getting after the quarterback.

Moreover, it will be intriguing to see how the new staff can mold the roster into a much-needed and deserving championship contender.


Featured image by AP Photo

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