The Detroit Lions only had one year in their new defensive system, but there could be some significant changes coming soon even in spite of the short amount of time that the team has enjoyed in their scheme.
Detroit looked to be transitioning to a 3-4 defense in 2021, and played plenty of those looks. That might have been by design, however, as personnel may have dictated the team to have that scheme early on. Now, with another year coming, a curveball could be added to the mix for the team.
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Speaking at the 2022 NFL Combine, Dan Campbell was asked about his team’s defensive plan for the new year. As he explained to reporters including MLive.com’s Kyle Meinke, it figures to be a change from the 3-4 looks and feature more 4-3 schemes up front.
“Schematic changes are under way for the Lions defense, including rolling with more 4-man fronts. “We’re altering kind of what we do defensively,” Dan Campbell said here in Indy. “We’ll be a little more of a fourth-down (linemen) type, if you will,” Campbell said as tweeted by Meinke.
Last year, the Lions were forced to be more reactionary with their defense. The team had to field the kind of roster that the situation dictated, but with some roster changes set to be made this offseason, it’s possible the Lions can now get to something they feel a bit more comfortable with.
Changes for Lions Defense Could Be Precipitated Thanks to Struggles
Is there a reason for the Lions to change their defense at this point in time so dramatically? Not specifically on the surface, but the team didn’t get the kind of consistent results that they wanted on the field for 2021. While Detroit managed to see several young players develop such as Jerry Jacobs, Amani Oruwariye, Alim McNeill, Derrick Barnes and AJ Parker, they also struggled with consistency statistically. As a result, it only stands to reason that the team would want to try a shakeup.
For the Lions, that development was a major win even in spite of the problems. Detroit learned that coordinator Aaron Glenn figures to be a rising star at the position. This past season, the Lions had up and down statistics as the 29th overall defense in the league, but Glenn helped develop solid game plans against teams like Baltimore, Los Angeles and Arizona that kept great teams and solid quarterbacks in check.
As the season wore on and the team gained in confidence, Glenn’s defense looked to improve in a major way, which lent itself to hope in Detroit for the 2022 season. Detroit is very happy to keep Glenn for continuity’s sake so that their defense can keep developing in the right direction. Glenn was a big part of that early turnaround in 2021. While the numbers weren’t good, the team had a better feel most of the second half.
Tweaking a bit of the look of the defense could help the Lions get even tougher. As it sounds, the team figures to be more multiple during the 2022 season and give the opposition plenty of different looks.
Could Defensive Changes Hint Toward Lions’ Top Pick?
Another way to look at these looming changes for the Lions could be that they will be brought on thanks to a new piece for the defense. Detroit is locked into the second-overall pick and could figure to have the choice of either Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson or Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. Either player could theoretically play in a 4-3 scheme and serve an an anchor for such a look given that has been the future that both players can be pointed to when they join the league. Here’s a good look at comparing the two players:
The Lions will have to decide which player fits them best, but it’s fair to say that either could be a centerpiece in the team’s new-look defense. Perhaps this could serve as an extra hint as to why the Lions are deciding to shake things up a bit.