As we count down the days to training camp, Around the League will examine one player from every team set for a breakout campaign in 2012. Next up, the Detroit Lions.
Making the leap? The Lions are looking for "Da Missile" to launch this season.
Selected with the No. 33 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft out of Western Michigan, Louis Delmas was an instant hit in the back end of the Lions' secondary. In his first three games, Delmas had 17 tackles and returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown to earn NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors. Delmas finished his rookie season with 94 tackles, one sack and two interceptions, the second of which he returned 101 yards for a touchdown.
In his second season, Delmas led the Lions in tackles (84) and had a pair of sacks and forced fumbles, but failed to come down with an interception. Delmas went without an interception again in 2011, which means his most recent pick came during a 31-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on December 20, 2009. Much to the chagrin of Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, the quarterback who threw that ball, Kurt Warner, has been out of football for two seasons.
Health was an issue for Delmas in 2011, as he missed the last five games of the regular season with a knee injury. It might not have been a coincidence that the Lions' pass defense, which ranked seventh in yards per play last season, allowed over 321 passing yards per game during that stretch.
The Lions' secondary might not be the strongest part of the defense, but a healthy Delmas, playing behind a potent pass rush, should be able to create more turnovers to mask the deficiencies the team has at cornerback and strong safety. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Delmas should have some additional motivation to take his game to the next level this season.