Why the Detroit Lions can go from worst to first in 2019

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 23: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings looks to pass pressured by Devon Kennard #42 of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 23, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 23: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings looks to pass pressured by Devon Kennard #42 of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 23, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images /

The Detroit Lions were disappointing in 2018 posting a 6-10 record. We’ll discuss why they can win the division this year, despite last year’s performance.

Here at Kick In the Crotch Weekly, we understand that most Detroit Lions fans want to believe that their team is due for great things. Sometimes we hope for those things even when coming off of a 6-10 season. This week, we’ll consider the reasons to be positive and to hope for postseason glory!

We all know how last season ended. We know that quarterback Matthew Stafford sustained some injuries, the wide receiver corps and running backs were decimated by trade and injury, and the team was trying to adjust to new head coach Matt Patricia. The defense got better the second half of the year but the offense just wasn’t very explosive or even effective most of the time.

This is the NFL, though, and every year offers new promise for the previously downtrodden. The Detroit Lions have rid themselves of Jim Bob Cooter, the former offensive coordinator, and hired a run-oriented coordinator in Darrell Bevell, previously with the Seattle Seahawks. The rest of the staff is back as are almost all of the good talent, plus the new draft class.

Detroit Lions defensive improvements

The biggest reason for optimism is on the defensive side of the ball. The Detroit Lions struggled early on in 2018 but rallied after acquiring tackle Damon Harrison from the New York Giants for a fifth-round pick. That move helped them end the season in tenth place against the run and eighth against the pass, good for tenth overall in yards.

The secondary has been retooled over the past couple of years, moving towards a faster, more versatile unit. Current holdout at cornerback, Darius Slay, is the most talented player but strong safety/ defensive back Quandre Diggs is an emotional leader in the back end. The unit has suffered from lack of speed in past seasons and inconsistency at the other cornerback spot opposite Slay.

Justin Coleman was brought in to be a cover man via free agency, as was Rashan Melvin. The draft brought in third-round safety Will Harris and fifth-round cornerback Amani Oruwariye to add depth to run the versatile schemes Matt Patricia employs. The franchise found several depth players as well during 2018 and there’s good competition for the backup positions.

The linebackers have likewise undergone changes as the new scheme was brought in.  The starters Devon Kennard, Jarrad Davis, and Christian Jones have second-round pick, Jahlani Tavai, Steve Longa, and Jaylen Reeves-Maybin as depth. The unit was responsible for the lion’s share (pun intended) of the team’s relatively low sack numbers in 2018, which relied on taking advantage of the speed of Davis and the pass rush skills of the other edge players.

Up front, the Detroit Lions have added Trey Flowers to a front that changes from three-man fronts to some more traditional four-man alignments, depending on the opponent. Da”Shawn Hand, A’Shawn Robinson, and Romeo Okwara have gotten the most reps with Damon Harrison manning the middle. Domata Peko has visited this week to possibly add depth or to give the Lions some leverage with Damon Harrison also asking for a new contract.

In conclusion, the depth in year two of the Patricia defense is better and the Detroit Lions have added pieces to allow the defense to match up with more teams. On paper, as long as Slay and Harrison come back during training camp, the defense looks poised to be more dynamic and certainly faster. An undermentioned aspect of the defense was their improvement as a team tackling the football under Patricia, now in the top five, but Lionswire editor, Jeff Risdon, noted the improvement as counted by Pro Football Focus in a recent article.