Training Day for the Detroit Lions is quickly approaching. While veterans report to camp on Tuesday, Saturday is the mandatory day for Lions’ rookies.
With a potential all-star coaching staff in place, there is much excitement in the Motor City surrounding this team, especially their rookies. After all, General Manager Brad Holmes executed very well in his first draft.
Landing Penei Sewell at No. 7 was an obvious win for the Lions. They needed to add a vital piece to their offensive line. Pairing Sewell with Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai could create a potentially top-ten offensive line.
And that will be critical for the newly acquired Jared Goff. The 26-year-old quarterback is on a one to two-year audition in Detroit. With many question marks at the wideout spot, having a top-tier offensive line is vital. For this reason, the Sewell selection was a home run.
There is another reason it was excellent and something that many analysts and experts discussed at great lengths.
Many scouts project Sewell to be a generational talent. Even some former Lions players agree as well. However, Sewell isn’t the only significant draft selection Detroit made. Besides the former Oregon Duck, here are three rookies that can have a significant impact this season.
Amon-Ra St. Brown could become a steal for the Detroit Lions.
There are a ton of question marks for the Detroit Lions at wideout. And the biggest question is, “who’s the No.1 option?” With the exit of Kenny Golladay, the Lions needed to fill that void. While Quintez Cephus showed promise last season, the Lions still needed a playmaker. Subsequently, they inked Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman to one-year deals.
However, that still wasn’t enough to excite the Lions fanbase. And GM Brad Holmes knew it too. That’s why he selected Amon-Ra St. Brown in the 4th round, a player who could win up being a steal.
The former USC Trojan fell to the Lions in the fourth round with the 112th pick. His slippage shocked draft experts and the Lions fanbase. Pre-draft projections had St. Brown going in the second or third round.
Nevertheless, he’s in Detroit, and the Lions are getting a true gamer.
Even though he’s 5’11, St. Brown is a violent receiver. His physicality when going for 50-50 balls will make him a viable target for Jared Goff when the Lions need to make a play. He’s a good route runner, knows how to maintain his top speed after the catch, and he’s pretty elusive. On top of he has pretty good hands.
Now there is a flipside to this coin.
St. Brown’s run block, for a wideout, isn’t desirable. And with his slender frame, he’ll need to get stronger when matching up against elite defenders.
Despite that, St. Brown has a significant opportunity in front of him. The Lions No.1 and No. 2 wideout position is for the taking. St. Brown may not be the No.1 option, but with a great showing in training camp, he could challenge for No.2 easily.
Levi Onwuzurike might be the most important person on the Lions’ defense.
HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones is synonymous with many quotes in today’s pop culture. One of those quotes is, “I choose violence,” from the character, Cersei Lannister.
That quote accurately describes Levi Onwuzurike.
“I like f*cking people up,” said Onwuzurike on a Zoom call after the Lions drafted him.
“I like to get off the line and just put my helmet or my hands on an offensive lineman and fuck up an offense’s scheme, pretty much. I like pushing them back 2, 3 yards and just making them feel like sh*t.
Well, ok then, Levi.
Onwuzrike has the tools to be a fan favorite in Detroit. Even though Alabama’s Christian Barmore went off the board three spots above him, Onwuzrike was arguably the best defensive lineman in this year’s draft.
And the Lions drafted him.
Watching tape on Onwuzrike, his “grown-man strength” is on full display. He’s a violent disrupter, destroying most pass protection with much ease. He treats quarterbacks the way a bull acts when it sees red.
The Lions had a historically horrendous defense last season under “defensive guru” Matt Patricia. They finished 28th defending the run, allowing an average of 134.9 yards per game.
Yikes. And it gets worse.
They also were dead last in hurries, sacks, and knockdowns. It wasn’t a pretty sight at all.
Onwuzurike will probably start for the Lions this season because the depth on the defensive line is questionable. And first-year defensive coordinator must turn him into the monster Detroit needs.
Although he opted out of last season with Washington, he earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2019. He recorded 45 tackles, six for loss, and two sacks.
Detroit will need him to bring all of that and then some this season.
Ifeatu Melifonwu inked his deal just in the nick of time.
There’s an adage that says, “the best ability is availability.”
And the Lions made sure that Ifeatu Melifonwu was available at training camp’s start, inking the defensive back to his rookie deal on Friday. Like Onwuzurike, Melifonwu is a critical piece to the Lions’ defense.
And also, like Onwuzurike, Melifonwu is another violent player. He excels at suffocating wideouts with his strength and length. The former Syracuse Orangemen is also an excellent tackler.
Last year, he tallied 55 tackles in a shortened season, along with breaking up nine passes and one interception. That production earned him third-team All-ACC honors.
With Aaron Glenn leading the Lions’ defense, expect that production to carry over and then some. Many credit Glenn for his with Marshon Lattimore. Under Glenn’s tutelage, Lattimore earned three Pro-Bowl selections in his first four seasons, one of which includes his rookie year.
Lattimore tallied 43 solo tackles in his rookie year, along with 18 pass deflections, and five interceptions, with one being a pick-six.
With Melifonwu learning from Glenn and secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant, Lions fans should expect identical results.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods