We’re just a year removed from the Detroit Lions, finishing with the worst overall defense under a regime billed as a defensive genius.
During the 2020 season, the Detroit Lions gave up a league-high 419.8 yards per game. That a year after allowing a whopping 400.4 yards per game. Just when you didn’t think things could get much worse, they did.
The Lions allowed a whopping 135 rushing yards per game to go with 285 passing yards in 2020, good for a 28th and 31st league ranking.
We can’t expect newly appointed defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn to fix things overnight, but I will say this, things can’t get much worse. I expect to see some improvement in 2021, but the Detroit Lions will need a year or two before we start seeing the vast improvements on the defensive side that we expect.
First, the good.
Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes did start to reconstruct this defense in what I feel to be the right way. Holmes spent two premium draft choices in 2021 on the defensive line after adding veteran Michael Brockers.
Holmes understood that the Lions need to find a way to generate a push inside their defensive line. Danny Shelton was fine on early downs, but he’s primarily a run-stuffer that struggled to push the pocket. Teams, especially ones that want to feature a base 3-4 defense, need a nose tackle that commands a double-team inside and can still collapse the pocket.
The Detroit Lions are banking on rookies Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike along with Michael Brockers, John Penisini, and Nick Williams to create a push inside, which will only benefit edge rushers Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara, who hope to feast getting after opposing quarterbacks.
Holmes addressed all levels of the defense via the NFL Draft and free agency. Players like Corn Elder, and Alex Anzalone will see plenty of work in Detroit. The Lions also drafted Derrick Barnes and Ifeatu Melifonwu to compete for starting roles leading up to week one of the season.