It’s been assumed that the Detroit Lions would find their biggest needs of the 2021 offseason on the offensive side of the ball given all the changes the team has seen there, but it’s tough for some to ignore the elephant in the room about the defense.
On that side of the ball, the Lions were beyond miserable leading to one of the worst seasons in franchise history in terms of preventing points. That fact hasn’t been lost on any analysts who are breaking the team down and pondering what needs to happen for the Lions to be more successful.
NFL.com and NFL Network analyst Steve Wyche took a look at trying to explain what Detroit needed to do this offseason, and as he said, defense needs to be in play very early for Detroit given all their problems on that side of the football.
In an interview, Wyche said:
“With that seventh pick, when you look at the Lions, their biggest weakness is that interior defense, either defensive line or inside linebacker. Something where that defense has got to get some teams off the field on third down so quarterbacks don’t have to try and make so many exceptional plays. So I wouldn’t be surprised to imagine the Lions, if they try to bolster that inside part of their defense early on so Jared Goff is not having to play hero ball. He can play within himself and again, that’s the run game and run action passing.”
Offensively, the Lions now will seem to have a solid identity forming, and in order to supplement it, Wyche is right that they should turn to defensive fixes to help aid in what they want to do. Detroit didn’t fail under Matt Patricia exclusively because of the offense, their defense let the team down for the most part during that time as well.
Lions’ Defensive Help May Need to Come Elsewhere
The Lions do have to improve a woeful defense that ranked dead last in the NFL during the 2020 season, but the trouble is, the draft might not be the best way to do this early on. There isn’t a huge amount of elite talents at the positions of need for Detroit other than perhaps Micah Parsons, Gregory Rousseau or Kwity Paye. The Lions might want to trade down to be able to land one of those defenders and garner more picks considering the top end of the draft doesn’t have as many elite talents on the defensive interior or at linebacker. Perhaps the Lions will also have to address the defense in free agency, either by re-signing someone like Romeo Okwara or prioritizing a low-buy linebacker like Matt Milano of the Buffalo Bills.
Obviously, defense is a huge need for Detroit, so expect it to be filled between the two periods. The major question remains whether or not the Lions are able to address it right away.
Will Lions Prioritize Offense or Defense Within NFL Draft?
The Lions have a big choice to make when it comes to the draft as Wyche and others have noted this offseason. Will they fill an immediate need at wide receiver with one of the best players in what seems to be a deep class, or will they grab the best player they can on defense? Plenty will depend on what happens in free agency and what the Lions determine to be the biggest needs they have when all is said and done.
Obviously, with the team’s needs in terms of pass catchers perhaps being magnified by the loss of several star players, the immediate thought could be for the Lions to go with a wideout. The depth situation at the spot might lend to this as well, with only Quintez Cephus guaranteed to be on the roster for 2021 at this point.
Nevertheless, linebacker and upgrades on defense remain a need as well, and some would say the most pressing need for Detroit. It will be fascinating to see which spot gets more of the love from the team for an upgrade when the draft rolls around.