Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez take a critical view of the Lions’ 2018 season and this staff, and discuss reasons to believe in 2019, Dec. 31, 2018.
Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press

Coming off a season in which he was the top-graded rookie interior defensive lineman in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, the Detroit Lions’ Da’Shawn Hand said Monday that there’s one area above all others that he’s trying to improve this offseason.

“I want to be fast,” Hand said during Monday’s locker clean out. “Like blazing speed. I’m trying to be like one of the fastest D-linemen in the league.”

A fourth-round pick out of Alabama, Hand had a surprisingly productive rookie season with 27 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles in 13 games.

He sprained the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee in a Week 14 win over the Arizona Cardinals and finished the season on injured reserve.

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But Hand did not require surgery for the injury and said he’ll be back training soon with a focus on “speed, strength, hand placement (and) hand technique.”

“I’m just trying to be the best that I can be,” he said.

One of the Lions’ top interior pass rushers as a rookie, Hand said his goal is to be even quicker off the ball in 2019, though he insisted that’s not necessarily to spend more time at defensive end.

The Lions have potentially one of the best interior lines in the NFL in Hand, A’Shawn Robinson and Damon Harrison, who they acquired in an October trade from the New York Giants. But they have a major need at defensive end for 2019.

Romeo Okwara will be a restricted free agent in March, Ziggy Ansah is an unrestricted free agent who’s not expected back, and while Hand is not a right end, he did see time at left end in the Lions’ even-man fronts this year.

Hand said he’s willing to play whatever role the Lions have in store for him next season, and Harrison said Hand is equipped to do that because of how well he takes coaching.

“He’s not a guy that think he has it all figured out,” Harrison said. “He’s trying to improve. He asks everybody questions, from me to Ricky (Jean Francois) to even John (Atkins). So he’ll be a good player in this league for a long time.”

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