After thinking about your responses to the Rogers piece, it really got me thinking about the Dline this ifseason, and how it has changed. So, after taking about 2 hours to slog through my favorites and actually organize them a bit, I looked over a host of articles from the last few months in regards to the Dline.
This is an older article from DetLions.com regarding the veterans on the Dline. Another article later on also dealt with Avril joining the line, and here is an interview with Chuck Darby from earlier this ifseason. Another DL.com piece on the defense in general also was of interest.
(BTW -- as you can tell from the joke post about the Mayan Apocalypse, reading the articles I hyperlink to can be helpful in understanding these posts at times. Plus, it allows you to form your own opinions so you can point out what a moron I am on occasion.)
After rereading those, I took a look at the current depth chart, and feel that my earlier assessment of the Dline -- from before the draft -- was pretty close.
They drafted a fun-stuffing DT to learn from and rotate in with Darby in Fluellen. They drafted a LB/DE edge rusher in Avril in 3 as well. I'm not including Cohen, because his best shot is to make the practice squad. If he does make the practice squad, it will be to see if he can develop to replace the spot Fleuellen will vacate when Darby goes. If not, they will draft another DT to learn/rotate in behind Fluellen. Not a big loss as Cohen was a 6th or 7th rounder, which seldom stick anywhere in the league, as is/was worth a shot at that price with his potential.
Looking back over the current depth chart, here is how the Dline stands now:
97 Alama-Francis, Ikaika DE 6-5 280 23 2 Hawaii
92 Avril, Cliff DE 6-3 252 22 R Purdue
70 DeGrate, Victor DE 6-3 294 23 1 Oklahoma State
95 DeVries, Jared DE 6-4 275 31 10 Iowa
94 Hardie, Rudolph DE 6-2 269 22 R Howard
90 Harriott, Claude DE 6-3 271 26 1 Pittsburgh
93 Smith, Corey DE 6-2 250 28 6 North Carolina State
99 White, Dewayne DE 6-2 273 28 6 Louisville
75 Cody, Shaun DT 6-4 310 25 4 Southern California
98 Cohen, Landon DT 6-3 274 22 R Ohio
91 Darby, Chuck DT 6-0 297 32 8 South Carolina State
96 Fluellen, Andre DT 6-2 296 23 R Florida State
79 Moore, Langston DT 6-1 305 26 4 South Carolina
78 Redding, Cory DT 6-4 295 27 6 Texas
Looking at this grouping, I'll make my first look at roster cuts/who makes it for this unit.
To begin with, I think that they will still keep 9 Dlinemen this year, although I expect one of them to be on the inactive list most weeks. The key question is whether they are going to keep 5 DT and 4 DE, or the opposite.
I think that camp decides how this plays out. Lets look at the locks. According to our 30 lock,
IAF-Redding-Darby-White are the starters, left to right. We also locked in Avril at DE and Fluellen at DT. It seems pretty clear that Fluellen is the guy to learn from, and eventually replace Darby. That is 6 spots filled.
If they do keep 9, that only leaves 3 spaces for the other 8 guys currently on the roster. That is where your competition will be toughest. There will be at least 4 DT's, so lets look at that battle first.
My gut says they keep Moore at DT. There are only 6 total DT's on the roster, and unless things have changed drastically, I don't see Cody being ahead of him on the depth chart, not matter how pumped he is for this season. (there was story on him on DL.com, but I couldn't find it going back. That right there is another sign...)
The 4th DE spot -- and possibly 5th is another heavily contested spot. For the record, it is nice to see the Lions have spots on the team now where the starters are talented enough, and there is enough depth, that there is true competition for the back-up spots. With Avril taking up a DE spot, but still an unproven rookie rusher (3rd round) -- a position that has a history of struggling -- I see the Lions keeping 5 DE's. The only way I don't see this happening is if they either don't keep 9 Dlinemen due to keeping additional safeties/CB/LB for ST play, or if Cody has such an awesome camp that they decide to keep him and slide him around as a DT/DE...
I don't foresee the second scenario happening, but the first is possible.
First off, who will be most likely to snag that coveted 4th DE spot? DeVries is listed as a starter right now, but I see IAF taking it over before the end of camp. That leaves DeVries, who is a 10 year vet, competing with Smith primarily for the 4th spot. If both of them do really well, that is the scenario I see them keeping 5 DE's. If one of them struggles, then unless one of the other DE's on the roster really steps up, I see them going with 8 linemen, and having Cohen on the practice squad as their backup Dlineman.
The potential of the Line, as Nubsnobber pointed out, is there -- as is that of the defense as a whole. But right now it is the dreaded P word still -- potential. IF IAF steps up, Redding elevates his game, White returns to pre-injury form and stays healthy, and Darby & Fluellen are able to do a better job in their gaps stopping the run up the middle than Rogers did -- this line could stop the run cold, and force pressure on the QB to throw quickly into the much-improved secondary...
A very hopeful picture, IF...which is what the Ifseason is all about!!