As the Detroit Lions endured one of the most miserable decades in major American sports, it always seemed the team was a step behind the rest of the league. Dalliances with the west coast offense or Tampa-2 defense always felt like a slow reaction to the latest league-wide trend.
For what feels like, and may be, the first time, the Lions are trying something new and if it turns out to be a success, may end up leading a positional revolution.
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert took a look at what the Lions are doing by loading the roster with long-armed defensive ends in a good blog post a couple weeks ago:
Mayhew told reporters earlier this spring that defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham commissioned a study on the correlation between sacks and players with certain height and arm-length measureables.
“We talked about that with our coaching staff and spoke at length with some of our guys about those guys being able to make more plays,” Mayhew said. “… So, it was something that we were kind of focused on. I’m not saying we wouldn’t have taken a guy who wasn’t 6-7, but we like what those guys bring to the table.”
You can’t watch the NFL Draft without hearing about the arm length of offensive tackle prospects but the idea hasn’t translated over to the players they face on the other side of the ball. The Lions are changing that and putting into practice having added Jason Jones through free agency and Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor through the 2012 draft.
The question becomes, will it lead to results?
That remains to be seen over the course of an entire season but the very early returns seem positive. MLive’s Justin Rogers has seen more than a few Lions practices and he noted the amount of batted and tipped passes in his notes and observations from yesterday’s minicamp practice:
The length along the defensive line is leading to an impressive number of batted passes. Ezekiel Ansah, C.J. Mosley and Jason Jones all got their hands on throws today with Jones absolutely engulfing one of Matthew Stafford’s attempts.
The Lions defense is predicated on getting after the quarterback and adding the ability to tip and bat passes gives the defensive front yet another way to impact the game, even when they can’t actually reach the quarterback. That is not only good news for the secondary as they try to slow down opposing passing attacks, it also could lead to more big plays on defense as tipped passes tend to lead to interceptions.
The defensive line’s ability to get a hand on the ball will be an interesting aspect to watch later this summer as the Lions move from the practice field into preseason games against live competition.