Starters: Ndamukong Suh, Ezekiel Ansah, Jason Jones, C.J. Mosley
The Lions have one of the deepest, most talented front lines in the league. It's spearheaded by Suh, whose name translates as "house of spears."
He's certainly a fearsome presence for opposing offenses. Suh's package of strength, quickness and an almost sociopathic nastiness on the field has netted him three Pro Bowl berths and two All-Pro honors.
The second overall pick in the 2010 draft, Suh is playing for his next contract this season. He has the potential to notch 10-plus sacks and earn first-team All-Pro distinction once again. The Nebraska product is one of the best defensive tackles in the league over the last few seasons.
He will be joined inside by Mosley, a wily veteran entering his second year in Detroit. The 31-year-old Missouri product is a reliable plugger against the run with just enough technical prowess to get into the backfield at times.
His ascension to the starting lineup brings more positional discipline and reliability to the line, qualities that have been an issue in recent times. It also signifies these Lions are a meritocracy, a welcome change from the Jim Schwartz era.
The ends will be Jones and Ansah, both entering their second seasons as starters. They have taken divergent paths to this point.
Jones is a hybrid end/tackle who will man the closed end of the line (where the tight end is aligned). He struggled early as the starter in 2013 before a knee injury wiped out his season before September ended.
The Eastern Michigan product had a great training camp, showing no ill effects from the knee. He should wind up with five or six sacks while rushing from both the edge and working inside, often on twists and stunts.
Ansah was the team's first-round pick in 2013. He made his presence felt quickly, notching a team-high eight sacks despite being pretty raw. The Ghana native has only been playing football for five years.
Offseason shoulder surgery limited him in camp, so expect him to play less than most starters. His freakish athleticism can still post more than a handful of sacks.
Reserves: George Johnson, Devin Taylor, Nick Fairley, Caraun Reid and Larry Webster
Taylor and Johnson will both see regular playing time as the reserve ends. It's no surprise that Taylor, who showed promise as a fourth-round rookie last year, will be a regular part of the rotation. Johnson, however, is another story.
A nondescript journeyman plucked off the street this spring, Johnson reformed his body and blossomed into the biggest preseason surprise. Now 20 pounds lighter, his first step is even more explosive and he didn't lose any power, either.
Johnson saw extensive action in Ansah's stead with the first team, and he fit right in. His relentless motor and impressive play recognition make him a viable breakout candidate.
Taylor could be as well. His game is more about his awesome length and power. Like Jones, he can slide inside and handle himself just fine at tackle. The 6'8" South Carolina product would start on many teams, but here he's fourth on the depth chart.
As pleasant of a story as Johnson is, Fairley is the flip side of the coin. The first-round pick in 2011 lost his starting tackle spot to Mosley thanks to a continual lack of discipline and dedication.
Fairley's battle with weight and penalty flags are well-documented. Yet he still has immense potential to be an impact force inside...just ask Suh:
He's entering the final year of his contract, which could be powerful motivation. If he gets—and stays—in shape, Fairley still offers game-changing ability. How well he actually performs is a big variable, a risk for which the Lions have good insurance.
Reid and Webster are both rookies who will see scant action other than special teams. Webster, a lanky end from D-II Bloomsburg, is very raw technically as he converts from basketball to football. Reid will be the fourth tackle, meaning the Princeton grad will often be a game-day inactive.