The previous Detroit Lions coaching staff put an emphasis on rushing the passer with their four defensive linemen. That philosophy, combined with a secondary that often struggled in man-coverage, and the Lions didn’t blitz much, certainly not as much as some fans wanted to see.
At his introductory press conference, new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin touched on the subject of pressuring the quarterback and indicated his desire to be more balanced.
“It’s like anything, you can’t pressure all day and you can’t just play four-man all day,” he said. “So, we’ll try to mix those things up and I think what it will do in the end of it, it will give our four-man guys a little bit better rush because the (opponent) knows it’s not always four and they won’t be getting chipped all the time because there’s a threat of somebody else coming.”
We’re used to hearing about balance more on the offensive side of the ball as it relates to run/pass play selection. Teams that are able to be effective through the air and on the ground open up even more opportunities for themselves because defenses have to be prepared for either attack. Then, things like play-action become more effective, further snowballing the offense’s advantage.
The same line of thinking holds for a defense. A balanced pass rush attack keeps offenses guessing, increasing the chances that the defense successfully gets to the quarterback. If the Lions can get to the quarterback quicker more consistently, the secondary doesn’t have to hold their coverage as long.
If the Lions pass rush can play out like Austin envisions and the secondary, particularly the corners, improve in coverage, the Lions defense may be primed for a big step forward.