Finally, we have reached the end of this series. After examining the Detroit Lions' offense earlier this week, we close by examining their defense.
Defensive Ends: Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lawrence Jackson, Willie Young
Additions: Ronnell Lewis (4th-round pick, Oklahoma), Edmon McClam (UDFA, Old Dominion), Everette Brown (free agent, SD), Ugo Chinasa (practice squad)
Avril and Vanden Bosch return as the starters with a combined 19 sacks between them in 2011. Lewis is undersized for a defensive end but looks to provide some speed off the edge. Jackson and Young contributed with 4.5 and 3 sacks respectively in 2011, and are decent depth players to give the starters a breather.
This might be the most talented group of defensive tackles in the NFC, but they aren't really endearing themselves to the rest of the league. I won't get into that, but there will be little changeover from last season's unit to the interior lineman in 2012.
Linebackers: DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, Justin Durant, Ashlee Palmer, Doug Hogue
Additions: Tahir Whitehead (5th-round pick, Temple), Travis Lewis (7th-round pick, Oklahoma), Carmen Messina (UDFA, New Mexico), Ronnie Sneed (UDFA, Kentucky), Slade Norris (practice squad),
Subtractions: Bobby Carpenter (NE)
Levy and Tulloch each started all 16 games in 2011, while Durant started 12. Carpenter was the primary backup at both OLB spots, but the former Buckeye and Cowboy left for New England. Tulloch's 5-year deal signed in March will keep him in Detroit through 2016. Durant has great speed but can sometimes struggle reading routes in coverage. The Lions gave up a 4th-round pick in 2013 to draft Whitehead, and clearly see potential in him; he'll play special teams while he learns the defense and could excel in that facet of the game.
Cornerbacks: Aaron Berry, Chris Houston, Alphonso Smith, Don Carey
Additions: Dwight Bentley (3rd-round pick, Louisiana-Lafayette), Chris Greenwood (5th-round pick, Albion), Jonte Green (6th-round pick, New Mexico State), Dontrel Johnson (UDFA, Murray State), Jacob Lacey (free agent, IND)
Subtractions: Eric Wright (TB), Brandon McDonald (free agent)
The Lions made the cornerback position a priority in the middle rounds of this year's draft after losing Wright to the Buccaneers in free agency. Houston will be their top returning corner with Berry likely starting opposite him. Bentley is a smaller corner with very good speed and athleticism, but may have been a reach in the 3rd round, especially since he did not play well in man coverage in the Sun Belt Conference. Greenwood is a small-school prospect drafted for his physical tools and blazing speed, and could make the team as a depth and special teams player.
Delmas and Spievey return as the starters, with the primary backup Harris walking in the off-season. Jones brings a veteran presence, having been a starter for most of his career in Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Tampa Bay. The remaining three players are valuable on special teams and depth only.