The Falcons play three NFC North teams in their first three weeks of the 2017 season, which is kind of wild. If they can emerge from that stretch 3-0, they’ll put themselves in excellent position to weather tough stretches against the NFC South late in the year and teams like the Patriots and Cowboys earlier on.
To get to that mark, though, they’ll need to get through the Lions in Week 3. Detroit was a weird team in 2016, boasting one of the worst defenses in the entire NFL and an offense that was only truly effective in fits and starts. They still made the playoffs, though, and I look at their roster and think they probably got a little better, not worse. They’re not a team I would elect to take lightly, no matter how many holes they have.
For a look at what they’ve been up to this offseason, here’s Pride of Detroit continuing our preview series.
Notable free agent additions: OT Rick Wagner, OG, T.J. Lang, TE Darren Fells, DE Cornelius Washington, DT Akeem Spence, LB Paul Worrilow, CB DJ Hayden
Notable free agent departures: OT Riley Reiff, OG Larry Warford, S Rafael Bush, DT Stefan Charles, LB DeAndre Levy (released)
Trades: Traded sixth-round pick to Rams for OT Greg Robinson (after Taylor Decker injury)
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
Jarrad Davis, LB, Round 1 -- Davis is expected to immediately take over as Detroit’s starting middle linebacker, pushing Tahir Whitehead to the weak side. He has taken all of the first-team reps at the position starting from OTAs.
Teez Tabor, CB, Round 2 - May not start for the Lions right away, but expected to compete for the starting outside cornerback job opposite Darius Slay. Chances are pretty good that Nevin Lawson will start the season, but Tabor is expected to get significant playing time at some point in 2017.
Kenny Golladay, WR, Round 3 - Expected to immediately assume the WR3 position behind Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. Took second-string snaps behind receiver TJ Jones in OTAs and minicamp, but expected to jump him during training camp. Golladay would likely be used sparingly as an outside receiver, allowing Tate--or tight end Eric Ebron-- to move into the slot.
Michael Roberts, TE, Round 4 - Roberts will be Detroit’s third tight end on the depth chart, but with massive hands and great red zone production at Toledo, he’s expected to get some serious opportunities once the Lions cross the opponent's 20-yard line.
Jamal Agnew, CB , Round 5 - Agnew almost certainly won’t get any playing time as a cornerback in 2017, assuming that there aren’t a massive amount of injuries, but he is getting serious consideration for the Lions’ kick and punt return job. Ran sub 4.4 40-yard dash at his Pro Day.
Biggest offseason addition: Rookie LB Jarrad Davis. Detroit’s defense was one of the worst in the league in 2016, and poor linebacker play was the biggest reason why. With DeAndre Levy gone, the Lions absolutely needed a three-down linebacker who has coverage skills. Davis is the perfect fit for that need.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp:
Who will win the Lions’ left tackle job now that Taylor Decker is likely out for the first 1-2 months of the season? The Lions traded for Greg Robinson in June, but they’ve yet to see him practice. Robinson was a disaster with the Rams, but many believe a change in scenery to an offense that better fits his skillset will help him turn around his career. If Robinson doesn’t win the job, Detroit also signed Cyrus Kouandjio to compete and have Corey Robinson and Cornelius Lucas as depth options.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:
Who will step up in the secondary? The Lions added a ton of competition at cornerback, including second-round pick Teez Tabor, fifth-round pick Jamal Agnew and free agent DJ Hayden. Detroit is also returning all of their starting cornerbacks from last year.
At safety, Glover Quin has the free safety position on lock, but Tavon Wilson will have to fight off second-year player Miles Killebrew for the strong safety position.
Notable injuries heading into training camp:
LT Taylor Decker tore his labrum during OTAs and is expected to be out another 3-5 months.
LB Tahir Whitehead missed OTAs and minicamp due to an undisclosed injury, but is expected to be ready.
RB Theo Riddick was limited all offseason after having double wrist surgery.
OG T.J. Lang has been recovering from hip surgery in January. Has not practiced with Lions yet, but expected to be ready by training camp.