The Detroit Lions defense struggled last season. That’s despite a solid performance from their offense. But is this unit capable of a quick turnaround?
When the Detroit Lions hired Matt Patricia to become their head coach in 2018, most figured the defense in the Motor City would significantly improve. After all, Patricia was the legendary defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots for six seasons.
Yet, two years into Patricia’s tenure in Motown with the Lions coming off yet another down season, the defense in Detroit was ranked as one of the worst in the NFL. This defensive unit finished 2019 ranked 31st in yards allowed (6,406), 32nd in passing defense (4,551), and 21st against the run (1,855).
Beyond the stats, the Lions have the pieces in place to have a quick turnaround. Last offseason, Detroit spent significant monies to bring in key free agents like defensive end Trey Flowers and cornerback Justin Coleman.
In the 2019 draft, the Lions added some great defensive prospects in linebacker Jahlani Tavai, safety Will Harris, and cornerback Amani Oruwariye. All of which should improve in their second season with the team.
But the most significant impact is likely to come from the coaching staff. Paul Pasqualoni stepped away as the Lions defensive coordinator in January. And in his place, Detroit hired Cory Undlin from the Philadelphia Eagles.
Here’s what Eagles head coach Doug Pederson had to say about the kind of defensive coordinator the Lions are getting in his former defensive backs coach according to DetroitLions.com.
"“They’re getting a guy that his players are going to be well prepared. He gets the most out of his players. Players play hard for him. And I’m excited for him and being in this role with Detroit and coach Patricia. Excited to see where his career goes now.”"
During his five-year run in Philly, Undlin helped to bring the City of Brotherly Love their first Super Bowl victory following the 2017 NFL regular season. It was his second championship title as he had also won a ring as a coaching assistant for the Patriots back in 2004 alongside Patricia.
For some, it seems the hiring of Cory Undlin by the Detroit Lions as their new defensive coordinator is nothing more than a title with Matt Patricia continuing to pull the strings behind the scenes. But according to Doug Pederson, Undlin is much more than that. And he’ll need to be in order to field the type of defensive turnaround the Lions need in 2020.