Allen Park — The Detroit Lions bid farewell to one of the best safeties to ever play for the franchise this offseason when they cut Glover Quin, yet still enter the 2019 campaign with exceptional depth at the position.
The Lions return experienced veterans Quandre Diggs and Tavon Wilson, along with last year's third-round pick Tracy Walker. Joining the group is Will Harris, another third-round selection, and Andrew Adams, who snagged four interceptions playing limited snaps for the Bucs in 2018.
“It’s exciting to get all these different pieces, see these guys play different things,” defensive backs coach Brian Stewart said. “I think training camp is going to be real exciting because now we get to see those things with pads on.”
The Lions are in the early stages of figuring out how the puzzle fits together in the back end, but the way things are setting up, there's a decent possibility they won't just have a traditional set of starters who play 100 percent of the snaps each week.
Instead, the Lions could deploy a safety rotation, which would add a layer of multiplicity to the defense, allowing the team to better match up against specific opponents.
“That’s exciting, right?” Stewart said. “You play against teams that have two tight ends, or multiple tight-end teams, you’re able to play three-safety sets or do some of those things. It just gives you so much versatility. That's what we want to be. That's a good thing."
Diggs is the least likely to leave the field. In his first full season at safety, after making the conversion from nickel cornerback, he played more than 96 percent of the snaps. Walker, meanwhile, was eased into things, playing 27 percent as a rookie. He'll compete with Wilson and Harris for playing time this year.
Walker and Harris are Detroit's future. The pair are both on the larger size for the position, each standing 6-foot-1 with tipping the scales just a pound different at their respective weigh-ins at the NFL combine.
"Walker is a little longer and Harris has his short-area quickness, he's faster in that sense," Stewart said. "I think with both those guys, we've got some young guys that can cover a lot of ground."
The Lions will continue to toy with the possibilities through the early stages of the offseason, but Stewart is excited for contact to be added to practices in training camp to better assess the group he'll have in 2019.
"Right now we're just kind of running around in underwear," Stewart said. "Not taking away from anybody, but in underwear, there's no physicality in what we're doing. I think that's going to big part of our game is the physicality, being able to tackle in space and do some of those things."