Lions' veterans share breakout picks for 2017

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Houston — Glover Quin and Anquan Boldin are two of the more accomplished players on the Lions’ roster and veteran leaders in the locker room. And as leaders, they are in tune with the development of their young teammates.

Asked which Lions player could be poised for a breakout next season, both had quick answers.

For Boldin, it was running back Zach Zenner.

“I think he’s a guy that will take the next step next year,” Boldin said. “For me, just seeing his growth. Whenever you have a young guy like that able to play every down, that’s big. He’s a guy that’s able to run the ball effectively, catch the ball out of the backfield, he can pick up blitzes.”

Zenner rushed for 334 yards in 2016, adding 196 as a receiver out of the backfield. He flashed the ability to handle an increased workload at the end of the season, when injuries decimated the team’s running back depth.

In the final two regular season games, Zenner carried the ball 32 times for 136 yards and three touchdowns. When you factored in his work as a pass catcher, he tallied 202 yards from scrimmage.

“I saw him personally mature over the year,” Boldin said. “He grabbed the coaches’ confidence. They weren’t shy about putting him out there and when they did put him out there, he responded well.”

As for Quin, he named a pair of rookie defenders who played sparingly in their first seasons, safety Miles Killebrew and linebacker Antwione Williams.

Killebrew played a significant role on third-down packages during the second half of the season. He averaged fewer than 10 snaps per game, but showed steady progress with 13 of his 15 tackles, plus his lone interception, coming over the final eight games.

Quin clearly sees some similarities between his own development and Killebrew’s. Both were fourth-round picks out of smaller schools who were asked to play a variety of roles as rookies. Quin believes that experience helped him become the player he is today and anticipates the multiple responsibilities will help Killebrew going forward.

“If you can throw all that on a person and they can handle it and make plays, once they have time to digest it in the offseason, when he comes back next year, he’s going to be so much further ahead,” Quin said. “And he’s going to have so much experience. I think that’s the thing that helped me the most is I played corner, I played nickel, I played safety, I played dime, I played it all.” @justin_rogers