The Detroit Lions are giving up more rushing yards per game after defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was lost for the season with a torn biceps injury in Week 5.
The Detroit Lions defense lost a key defensive player in Week 5 when defensive tackle Haloti Ngata suffered a season-ending torn biceps injury. Good teams survive despite injuries due to great talent and depth throughout their roster. So, how have the Lions fared since the injury? Against the run, not too well.
With Ngata in the lineup the first five weeks, the Lions allowed an average of 74.6 yards rushing per game. After he departed due to injury? The defense has allowed an average of 136.75 yards rushing per game. The difference appears to be staggering.
If we look at the outliers, we find that the Lions have actually only allowed more than 100 yards rushing in three of their nine games this season. Two of those have come without Ngata on the field. They came in Week 6 versus the New Orleans Saints (193 yards) and in Sunday’s Week 10 game versus the Cleveland Browns (201 yards). The Atlanta Falcons in Week 3 also cracked 100 yards rushing with 151 yards.
The good news is the Lions held the Pittsburgh Steelers to 75 yards and the Green Bay Packers to 78 yards rushing in the past three weeks. It’s almost an all or nothing affair with the Lions rushing defense. Either the opposition is fairly shut down on the ground or they run wild. Generating some consistency in this area would go a long way for the Lions playoff push.
The answer for this year appears to be the ‘next man up’ mantra. Hence, building depth across the roster is such an important endeavor. But looking to the future, the Lions need to start thinking harder about life after Ngata.
Expectations were already high for 2016 second-round draft pick defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson. He’s been stepping up and producing. Now, without Ngata, expectations are rising for 2017 sixth-round draft pick defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter. The question is, can these two, along with defensive tackles Akeem Spence and Khyri Thornton hold down the fort?
The Detroit Lions hopes for this season may ride on those four defensive tackles stopping the run. If they can’t right the ship and consistently get the job done down the stretch, expect another draft pick devoted to the defensive tackle position in 2018.