Lions have revamped run game but still have pass-rush questions

Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer

The Detroit Lions ended their offseason program on Thursday. Here’s a look at how they fared:

Offseason goals: The Lions had three realistic goals this offseason — figure out how to work under new coach Matt Patricia, fix the run game, and improve the team’s pass rush. All three of those are still works in progress as the Lions continue to get comfortable with Patricia. They improved their run game on paper but potentially not in reality and still have major pass-rush questions.

How they fared: Too soon to tell

Daniel Mears/Detroit News via AP

Move I liked: The hiring of Patricia. It was the biggest move the team could make in the offseason. It targeted Patricia as the coach it wanted from the beginning and then went out and landed him. That’s something the Lions haven’t always been able to say throughout the past six decades. Whether it will work out remains to be seen, but at least they can say they landed the guy they wanted (although their vetting process later came into question when a 22-year-old sexual assault indictment that never went to trial surfaced in May).

Move I didn’t like: Essentially ignoring the pass rush. The Lions hired a defensive guru in Patricia and then didn’t do too much to back up the side of the ball he’s most familiar with. Sure, the draft didn’t exactly fall how the Lions might have wanted it to if they were going to target defensive players, but it became clear they had a plan to improve the run game through the draft. That meant only one front-seven pick — fourth-rounder Da’Shawn Hand — along with no established playmakers added through free agency. There’s a reason Detroit’s front seven is still its biggest unknown.

Biggest question still to be answered in training camp: Besides the aforementioned pass rush, it’s how the run game is actually going to work. Detroit added two offensive linemen, a fullback and a potential starting running back (Kerryon Johnson) during the draft. But until pads actually come on, it’s tough to tell whether the league’s worst rushing offense from a season ago will get markedly better in 2018.

Quotable: “I’ve been talking about that since January. I think, like I said I think the other night, last night or the night before, we don’t play until September. So, I think we added some offensive linemen, we’ve added a running back in free agency, we’ve added a running back in the draft, so I think on paper should our run game be better? Yeah, probably. Now, it’s up to the players, the coaches and all of us to make sure we get out to the spring portion of our practices to implement the new guys into the system. Get to training camp and we’ll have a very physical training camp. We’ll see how everything comes together. So, I think the pieces are there; now it’s really up to, you know, all of us in the building to kind of make sure these guys produce at a high level.” – Lions general manager Bob Quinn

Salary-cap space: $9,166,585 per the NFLPA

2018 draft picks: Round 1: Frank Ragnow, OL, Arkansas; Round 2: Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn; Round 3: Tracy Walker, DB, Louisiana; Round 4: Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama; Round 6: Tyrell Crosby, OL, Oregon; Round 7: Nick Bawden, FB, San Diego State.

Undrafted rookie free agents signed: Deontez Alexander, WR, Franklin; Al-Rasheed Benton, LB, West Virginia; Amari Coleman, CB, Central Michigan; Antwuan Davis, CB, Texas; Josh Fatu, DT, USC; Mike Ford, CB, Southeast Missouri; Chris Jones, CB, Nebraska; Chris Lacy, WR, Oklahoma State; Chad Meredith, LB, Southeast Missouri; John Montelus, OL, Virginia; Beau Nunn, OL, Appalachian State; Brandon Powell, WR, Florida; Teo Redding, WR, Bowling Green; Ryan Santoso, P, Minnesota; JoJo Wicker, DL, Arizona State.

Unrestricted free agents signed: Devon Kennard, LB; Christian Jones, LB; Kenny Wiggins, OL; Sylvester Williams, DT; DeShawn Shead, DB; Luke Willson, TE; LeGarrette Blount, RB; Levine Toilolo, TE; Matt Cassel, QB; Wesley Johnson, OL; Jonathan Freeny, OL; Trevor Bates, LB; Adam Bisnowaty, OL; Wes Saxton, TE; Marcus Lucas, TE.

Restricted free agents signed: TJ Jones, WR.

Players acquired via trade: None