The Detroit Lions defense has been miserable this season, and the numbers are now painting the picture of what could be the worst group in the NFL.
After Detroit was roughed up by the Oakland Raiders, the Lions slipped to near the bottom of the league in multiple categories. They are now second to last in total defense, giving up 424 yards per-game. Worse, the Lions have only forced 12 turnovers this season, which is a middle of the pack total. They haven’t gotten better at getting the ball back.
In terms of the rush, they have allowed 1,086 yards and are surrendering an ugly 135 yards per game on the ground. Those totals are good for a bottom 10 mark in the entire league against Detroit’s competition.
Obviously, some things have to change over the second half of the season in order for the Lions to claw back to potential contention for a possible playoff run.
So what can the Lions do to turn things around? Here’s some ideas.
Matt Patricia’s Defensive Fix
If there’s anyone who knows the value of defense to a team, it’s Patricia, who has presided over some of the better groups in the league. According to Patricia, though, the Lions have to focus in on the fundamentals.
“We got to just keep pounding away to get it better,” Patricia told the media honestly a few weeks back. The statement was specifically about the rush defense, but it could have been a metaphor for the whole entire group.
How does Patricia propose that? By staying aggressive as a teacher and emphasizing what the Lions can do better in terms of fundamentals. As he admitted to the media, he believes in Detroit’s scheme, but thinks the team needs to find a way to continue to improve. As he said, he believes that falls on him as a teacher with some of the things that he can emphasize week to week for Detroit to improve upon.
If there’s one side of the ball where things have been lacking and must turn around, it’s on the defense. The team isn’t rushing the passer well, is playing poorly on the back end and as a whole, simply isn’t generating the type of consistent effort they need in order to win big and have a consistent effort.
Thus far, complaints about the team’s offense have been minimal. The fact of the matter is, if the Lions played consistent, winning defense, it would cover up a lot of the minor troubles they’ve had offensively. The defensive side of the ball is why Matt Patricia was brought to Detroit in the first place, and it’s why he must clean that up most of all for the team to have a successful future.
According to Patricia, he simply has to communicate better in order for things to translate on the field.
What Lions Can Do
Detroit needs to consider making a few changes in order to potentially spice things up. First of all, they need to consider giving some playing time to players who play hard on special teams yet do not ordinarily see the field. Jalen Reeves Maybin could fit in a role for the team’s linebacking core, which has struggled.
Additionally, as Pro Football Focus points out, the team might ponder switching up scheme and personnel in order to better leverage some situations.
Secondly, perhaps it’s time for Matt Patricia to switch things up in terms of his own scheme and calls. If Darius Slay is correct and the Lions haven’t managed to change much up which teams are catching on to, perhaps it’s time for a change in terminology.
Detroit could always make a bold move and fire defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, but with his status as Patricia’s friend and a potential figurehead coordinator, even that might be a fruitless endeavor and something unlikely to occur.
At this point, it seems as health might be the only way for the Lions to feel better about things on the defensive side. Missing names like Tracy Walker, Slay, Mike Daniels and Da’Shawn Hand for extended times hasn’t helped whatsoever.
The Lions simply have to power through, see if they can make some in-house tweaks and hope to improve. A solid finish to 2019 could set the team up for a better 2020 year.
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