In 2017, the Detroit Lions had defensive issues. Unfortunately, they have carried over into 2018 despite any changes made to the roster.
The Detroit Lions defense is still a work in progress in 2018. Two new starting linebackers, two new starting defensive linemen and one continually injured star defensive end. Despite the changes, the weakness from 2017 has carried over into this season.
After former Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata went down with an injury early in 2017, the teeth of the defense in the trenches disappeared. Teams ran at will against the Honolulu blue. With Ngata now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, the hole he left last year remains.
Sunday’s game versus running back Ezekiel Elliot and the Dallas Cowboys shed a brighter light on the lack of run defense in this Detroit Lions unit. Sure, Elliot is a great rusher and a tough task for any team to defend. But he danced his way for 150+ yards from scrimmage almost at will.
This is an area that must be addressed eventually. The absence of defensive end Ziggy Ansah surely makes a difference as he’s known for his pass rushing and is underrated against the run. With his injury situation this season under the franchise tag, one has to wonder if he’s playing for a different team next year.
Ansah is such an important piece that this defense can look completely different when he plays. But, unable to stay on the field, he’s not worth the price tag. No team likes to pay top dollar for a player to constantly be on the sidelines with an injury.
The problem then becomes what the Lions do for a pass rusher to replace Ansah. The pass rush is the second biggest problem with this defense. While the Lions may have 13 sacks through four games, but many of those came after opposing quarterbacks were unable to find an open receiver and pass protection eventually broke down. Coverage sacks are still sacks and effective, but the credit goes to the secondary.
That brings us to a bright spot. The Lions defensive secondary has been playing well and forcing sacks. Star cornerback Darius Slay even picked off New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady – not an easy task. But the team needs to come together with a better performance in the front seven to start winning more games and replacement for Ngata also needs to emerge.