The Detroit Lions managed to make a ton of improvements this offseason, but one part of their team is still lacking and it might be a surprise on the defensive side of the ball.
Recently, Bleacher Report took a look at naming the glaring weaknesses for every team, and when it came to the Lions, the defensive backfield was the spot picked out by Kristopher Knox. That was due mostly to the fact that the Lions were bad in 2019 and have seen plenty of changes which might not be enough.
“Head coach Matt Patricia was supposed to help make the Detroit Lions defense formidable, but the former New England Patriots defensive coordinator has failed to do so. In fact, Detroit’s pass defense has been a relative disaster under Patricia.
Last season, Detroit ranked last in passing yards allowed, 27th in touchdowns allowed and 30th in interceptions with just seven. The Lions then traded away Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay, who had two of those interceptions and 13 passes defended.
Detroit did use the third overall pick in April’s draft on cornerback Jeff Okudah, but he is unproven at the pro level. The additions of Desmond Trufant and Duron Harmon should help bolster the secondary some, but this is still one of the shakiest pass defenses in the league.”
The Lions do have to see how everyone gets on the same page and comes together, and have a big question to answer in seeing how Jeff Okudah and Desmond Trufant play. They do have some depth on the back end, but seeing how the new players acclimate at cornerback will be a big thing to monitor. They will have to hope things can fall into place.
Until then, it’s fair to see why folks might question the team and their trajectory on the back end.
Lions Backfield Called Out for Lacking Interceptions
As the stats show, Detroit hasn’t generated close to enough interceptions on the back end. Their squad only put up 7 picks in 2019, which was tied for the lowest total in the league. By comparison, some of the better and more aggressive teams collected 20 interceptions and well above on the season. Most teams at the very least were in the teens in terms of picks.
— All NFL Stats (@AllNFLStats) June 30, 2020
Obviously, the Lions have other defensive problems like low sack totals and letting teams push them around in the running game. Interceptions, however, offer the team a shot at a sudden change and a potential game changing play. This offseason, the Lions subtracted lock down cornerback Darius Slay but added Desmond Trufant, Jeff Okudah and Duron Harmon. That’s a ton of playmaking potential on the back end for the team to help aid in an improvement.
Safe to say the whole group could use a boost, but if the Lions could find a way to simply intercept the ball more, they would likely improve their whole defense.
Lions Defense Ranked Low Following Free Agency, Draft
Many fans and pundits would think that the Lions defense has been improved in a big way, but it might not be if Bleacher Report is to be believed. Recently, the site power ranked every team’s defense following the biggest moves of the offseason, and the Lions didn’t place highly whatsoever. Detroit’s defense was bad last season, but according to Martin Fenn, the improvements they have made have been minimal.
The Lions placed 29th on the list, with only 3 defenses in the league worse at this point.
Here’s a look at what Fenn wrote about why:
“The Lions made the best decision for their defense by staying at the No. 3 spot in the draft and selecting Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, who was dominant during his tenure with the Buckeyes. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed first downs on just 20 percent of all targets at the outside corner since 2018. He also dominated in press coverage, making him the perfect replacement for Darius Slay.
Detroit also signed former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant earlier in the offseason while acquiring ball-hawking safety Duron Harmon from the New England Patriots.
The problem is, the secondary figures to see a ton of action due to a relatively lackluster pass rush. The Lions cut edge-rusher Devon Kennard and defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison, but the only move they made to upgrade the line was signing former Pats defensive tackle Danny Shelton.
Shelton was a run-stuffing machine for New England last year, and perhaps the Lions are counting on the additions of linebackers Jamie Collins and Reggie Ragland to help against the run as well. Still, they don’t have much of a pass rush outside of Trey Flowers, which does not bode well for the overhauled secondary. Collins did have seven sacks last season, but he will be 31 in October, and the Lions might need him to be more of a cover backer.
Third-round draft pick Julian Okwara might be able to help set the edge, but the Lions ranked 29th in passing DVOA last year, and the relative shortage of pass-rushing threats will test Detroit’s secondary once again.”
Detroit has added plenty to the mix in both free agency and the draft but clearly not enough to move the needle as Fenn is concerned in terms of a turnaround. Obviously, the Lions need to prove such rankings lists wrong considering how important 2020 is for everyone on the team.
Lions 2019 Defense Finished Statistically Horrible
Detroit had nearly the worst defense in the league by most metrics in 2019. As a whole, the Lions allowed too much yardage, giving up 6,406 yards on the year. As was pointed out, to put up numbers like that, it means the team has been giving up over 400 yards of offense a game.
The Lions allowed 6,406 yards in 2019. That was 31st in the NFL, behind only Arizona.
That’s 400.4 yards per game.
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) December 30, 2019
Additionally, Detroit’s pass defense bottomed out as a league-worst outfit in 2019. The team allowed nearly 300 yards a game through the air, which is a miserable total.
The Lions pass defense was worst in the NFL in 2019, allowing teams an average of 284.4 yards per game.
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) December 30, 2019
Certainly, injuries helped complicate matters for Detroit’s defense, but that’s not an acceptable excuse for such awful numbers. Expectations were high for the Lions in 2019 given how they finished the season, and the team has taken steps to reconstruct things in the meantime.
Many might not realize it, but the Lions didn’t exactly intercept the ball last season and struggled in pass defense. Though additions have been made in 2020, the problems might not have been completely fixed.