Detroit Lions at the halfway mark: Positional report cards
Whew, where to begin. Firstly, this group was largely projected as a run-stopping force before the season started, as the additions figured to be fine compliments to a unit that was very tough to run on in the second half of 2018. Whoops.
Secondly, perhaps not enough was made of Damon Harrison, Trey Flowers, Mike Daniels and Da’Shawn Hand all missing significant portions of the offseason program and training camp due to a combination of injuries and contract disputes. Whether those absences set the unit back significantly is up for debate. But the results to this point have been next to disastrous, and it has had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the defense.
Their inability to stop the run has been baffling; Detroit ranks 27th in the NFL at 135.8 yards against on the ground. It’s a startling failure, even though the unit has been undermanned practically all year.
Daniels has missed the past six games with a foot injury and Hand has appeared in just two games recovering from an elbow injury suffered in training camp. Add in the fact that Harrison hasn’t made the same run-stuffing impact that he did after joining the team last year, and it’s been a mess.
As if their issues against the run weren’t enough of a problem, the Lions continue to struggle to generate pressure from their defensive front. While sacks don’t always tell the full story of how a defense affects a passing game, the Lions just haven’t generated enough pressure, ranking 27th with just 14.0 sacks.
Flowers got off to a quiet start after signing his monster free-agent deal but has come alive in recent weeks with 3.0 sacks over the past two games. However, he just can’t be relied upon to consistently get to quarterbacks by himself and last year’s sack leader Romeo Okwara (7.5 sacks in 2018) has been invisible with just 0.5 takedowns on the year.
The overall poor play of the defensive line has put extra pressure on a linebacker unit short on playmaking ability and a secondary that has had trouble staying healthy and has seen the departure of one of its most trusted leaders via trade. A good performance against the New York Giants and star tailback Saquon Barkley keeps this grade from slipping any lower.