Detroit Lions: Recent Moves May Signal Switch to 3-4 Defense


In September I wrote about the Detroit Lions switching to a 3-4 defense under the conditions that Ndamukong Suh bolts in free agency. Well, he bolted and the Lions were left with a gaping hole in the middle of their defense and big decisions on how to fill it.

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With the block-buster trade for Haloti Ngata, it appears that my prediction may indeed come into fruition – especially with another defensive tackle out the door in Nick Fairley, who I thought could have made the transition to a 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

The departure of Fairley is a huge blow for the Detroit Lions. With Suh already gone, the Lions have lost two consecutive first round draft picks from 2010 and 2011 in just a matter of days. What’s worse, they both play the same position in what was the strength of a top-five defense, the defensive line.

The Lions, coming off of an 11-5 season and a playoff berth, where prime candidates to take a step back  next season.

But by trading for Ngata, one of the best, 3-4 defensive linemen in the NFL, the Lions have a chance to retain their top-five defense by making a schematic change.

The Lions have managed to retain their versatile line backing corps by re-signing Josh Bynes and forgoing the decision to make Stephen Tulluch, who was coming off an ACL tear in 2014-2015, a cap casualty. That gives them a bevy of options should the team announce a shift from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.

Make no mistake, whether the Lions make the philosophy change on defense or not – and signs point towards at least giving more 3-4 looks – there are still holes that need to be filled on the defense regardless.

Defensive tackle depth has been obliterated and the Lions are still searching for their starting cornerback opposite of Darius Slay. The team hopes it can retain Rssean Mathis, but they still need to add a young corner to the mix. The Lions may even consider adding edge rushers in the draft where they will be two picks shorter (fourth and fifth round) thanks to the Ngata trade.

That’s quite the list and that doesn’t even address the needs on the offensive side of the ball for Detroit.

The Lions have a list of issues they need to address to maintain what they’ve been building towards over the last several years. By switching to a 3-4 defense, the Lions can minimize the blow of losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, and perhaps even build upon a successful season in 2014, maintaining their win now mantra.

Next: Suh is Gone, It's time to move on

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