Are the Lions ready to roar?
But even in a league that has done everything possible to give the offenses every advantage, defense is still the key to a championship run. Even high-scoring offenses like the Kansas City Chiefs can’t be expected to put 35-42 points on the board every week.
Plain and simple the defense has to be better.
But the question is; have the Lions done enough this offseason to improve their defense? The answer is really sort of a grey area. Have the Lions added pieces to improve their defense? Yes. But does getting a blue-chip talent like Jeff Okudah offset trading away Darius Slay? Not really.
The truth is that Okudah could one day be better than Slay, but will he be as good or better than Slay this fall? I sort of doubt it.
Yet the addition of safety Duron Harmon is an underrated move and his ability to play this defense will create an impact. All the haters who say that it was a waste to sign Jamie Collins because he’s only played well in New England need to remember that Collins will be playing in the same defense here.
And for everyone who is skeptical that the Lions haven’t done enough to improve the defensive line … well, you might be right.
One of the reasons that Matt Patricia’s defenses have been underwhelming has been how much he undervalues pressuring opposing quarterbacks. If you’ve ever listened to Patricia talk about the pass-rush he does give it some lip service, but actions speak louder than words.
Last season the defensive line was consistently unable to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Matt Patricia’s solution? Continue to just rush the defensive line.
The Detroit Lions blitzed less than just about any other team in the NFL, despite the fact that week after week they proved the defensive line alone couldn’t get to opposing passers.
So having said that, how is next season Patricia’s best chance to win? Two final reasons. One is new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin. While Undlin did spend one season in New England where he and Patricia formed a close relationship, he has since coached on teams that have an aggressive approach to playing defense.
Undlin understands that if you don’t have pressure, then you don’t have anything. If Patricia allows Undlin to do his job, then the Lions defense will be more aggressive within the parameters of Matt Patricia’s defense. This should naturally result in more pressure.
The second reason is the ‘buy-in’ factor. The Lions are populated with Patriots castaways and rejects who may not be playing in Bill Belichick dynasty land anymore, but believe in the system and Matt Patricia.
Does all of this mean the Lions are ready to roar? They still need more pieces in my opinion, but Patricia has turned the roster over enough to have players that fit his defensive system to get better results, even though depth is the main concern there, especially up front.
The offensive improvement that should occur in Darrell Bevell’s second season and Matthew Stafford’s return could realistically carry an average defense into the playoffs. If the Lions can just finish 9-7 the playoffs should be in there grasp, especially given the new expanded playoff format.
That would fulfill the mandate of being a playoff contender for the Ford family and give Matt Patricia a winning season thus securing his continued reign in Detroit. Will it happen? Maybe. Injuries and poor play could derail everything, but barring a pandemic in the Lions locker room, this is Matt Patricia’s best chance to win.