Detroit Lions pass rush ranked towards the bottom by PFF

Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions /

The Detroit Lions ranked 24th in pass rushing and third in the division by PFF, but there is one thing that is getting overlooked

Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 teams offensive lines last week; the Detroit Lions ranked 8th showing the potential of that position group. This time around they ranked all the teams’ pass rush, and the site’s analysts weren’t generous to the Lions. The team landed towards the bottom at 24.

Here is what PFF’s Gordan McGuiness had to say about the rankings:

"There is the potential for the Lions pass-rush to be much better than this, but there are also a lot of question marks. Ansah had 11 sacks a season ago, but just 38 total pressures, and that has been a theme in his career so far. Zettel was solid last year as the former sixth-round draft pick brought in 43 total pressures, while Hyder had 51 in 2016 before missing the 2017 season through injury. That’s three big question marks though. Can Ansah deliver consistently, can Zettel continue to improve and can Hyder return from his injury back at his 2016 level?"

He based the ranking on this projected lineup:

"Edge Defender: Ezekiel Ansah, 80.2 overall gradeDefensive Interior: A’Shawn Robinson, 78.6Defensive Interior: Jeremiah Ledbetter, 56.8Edge Defender: Kerry Hyder Jr., 77.5* (2016 season grade)Key Rotational Player: Sylvester Williams, 76.5 / Da’Shawn Hand, 75.1* (2017 college grade)"

Considering the lack of investments into pass rushing this year, this might not be a bad ranking for the Lions. General Manager Bob Quinn and Coach Patricia seem to be happy with what players they have along the defensive line. There hasn’t been any word they are pursuing free agents, but there might be a reason why.

Scheme Change

There is one problem I see wrong with these rankings. They are basing the rankings solely on the defensive line being the only source of pass rush. Patricia will be implementing a scheme that disguises where the pressure will come from vs just the typical front four. The design of the scheme is to generate pressure from everywhere on the defense, not relying on one particular position group.

Erik Schlitt from Lionswire examined the Lions pass rush and he has this to say:

"By deploying a defense that is flexible in how it schemes pressure, coaches rely on multiple players to produce rather than just one stud. I believe this is the Lions’ reasoning for not being more aggressive in adding more established pass rushers in free agency or the draft."

To put it in perspective, the Patriots ranked worse than the Lions-coming in at 27th. The Lions will be running a similar style defense like the Patriots. Because of that scheme, they routinely rank in the top 10 in scoring defense. That should give some hope to worried Lions fans and not read too much into these rankings.

Next: Five Lions that need to stay healthy in 2018

Because of the lack of improvement along the defensive line this year, the Lions get dinged in the rankings. There is, however, a bigger picture here. Patricia will be implementing a scheme that will generate pressure utilizing the whole defense, not just one position group. As long as Patricia is able to generate the same output as he did in New England, the pass rush will produce positive results.