The Detroit Lions are starting to see signs from one of their rookies on the defensive side of ball after a stellar performance against the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite losing All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to free agency, and several other needs along their defensive line, the Detroit Lions opted to wait until Day Three of the 2018 NFL Draft to address their D-Line. And they selected a single rookie to do so. That defender was Alabama’s Da’Shawn Hand.
Touted as a possible Day Two selection, Hand fell to the Lions in the fourth round, 114th overall. Detroit actually traded a 2019 third-round pick to the New England Patriots in order to pick the 22-year old defender.
During his time at Alabama, Hand was only a one-year starter. But his 6-foot-3, 297-pound frame, ability as a penetrator, and his position-flex across the D-Line made him the perfect addition to Matt Patricia’s multiple defensive scheme.
Hand recorded 12 tackles in 92 defensive snaps through his first three games as a professional. But he started showing signs of his playmaking ability against the Cowboys in Week Four. With a career-high 47 snaps, playing more than 68 percent of the Lions total defensive snaps, the rookie defender posted two tackles, two quarterback pressures, his first NFL sack and forced fumble.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hand has been the third best defender in the Detroit through four games, with only fellow rookie safety Tracy Walker and injured defensive end Ezekiel Ansah rated higher. PFF also has Da’Shawn tied for second on the team with nine defensive stops, which are tackles that constitute a loss for opposing offenses.
Just a quarter into the regular season, the Detroit Lions seemed to be allowing rookie defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand to slowly grow into his role on the defense. And the more opportunities he’s getting, the more he’s proving himself to being quite the steal of this year’s draft class.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, subscribe to PFF’s EDGE or ELITE subscriptions at ProFootballFocus.com.