In just under one year, The Detroit Lions’ defensive line has gone from a major question mark to a team strength. With one or two offseason additions, could it become one of the NFL’s most feared in 2019?
A-Gap. Three-Technique. Gap responsibility. Surely you’ve heard all of these phrases in assorted football circles, with varying degrees of recognition. For the Detroit Lions, these phrases played a major role in their defensive line’s turnaround towards the end of the 2019 season.
As the Lions continue to shape their defensive roster around head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn’s preferred flexible 3-4 base defense, these terms come into focus. Defensive linemen typically align themselves based on the positioning of the other team’s offensive linemen.
In a 3-4, d-linemen take responsibility for the gaps created by the opposing line. It’s a scheme used by many successful NFL teams, including Patricia and Quinn’s breeding ground, the New England Patriots.
During the course of the past decade, under former defensive coordinators Gunther Cunningham and Teryl Austin, the Lions generally ran a 4-3 base, which was predicated on defensive fronts spreading out and getting upfield as quickly as possible. Under their watch, defensive lineman such as Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Cliff Avril and Ziggy Ansah had much success. A new regime though brought a new philosophy.
Prior to the start of the 2018 season under Patricia’s scheme shift, the Lions’ defensive line was wrought with question marks regarding its members. Is Sylvester Williams a good enough replacement for Haloti Ngata? Is A’Shawn Robinson ready for a bigger role? Can Ansah stay healthy?