The Detroit Lions are closer to contention than many people think

Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
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Danny Shelton, New England Patriots (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Danny Shelton, New England Patriots (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The defense has to be more consistent

The Lions offense has created what I call ‘offensive optimism’ among fans. There is every reason to believe that Detroit should be productive and fun to watch when they have the ball. Yet even in a league that fosters offense and tries to stifle defenses, teams simply cannot compete without a good defense.

The old adage that defense wins championships was in full display almost a year and a half ago when the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII. The Kansas City Chiefs and Rams had the two most feared offenses in the NFL, yet the Patriots beat them in back-to-back games to become world champions.

Defense still had a part in the Chiefs victory over the 49ers this past February in Super Bowl LIV, but not to the same degree. To which many fans are thankful, but defense is still an extremely valuable commodity.

This is where the Lions will prove whether they are contenders or not.

Matt Patricia has hired Cory Undlin as his new defensive coordinator and general manager Bob Quinn has acquired several new pieces to allow the defense a chance to actually compete instead of just rolling over and dying like they did all last season.

Undlin has expressed optimism in the parts he has to work with on defense, but doesn’t every coach? The biggest concern I have is depth in the front seven, but if nose-tackle Danny Shelton plays at the level he did last season, that would give the Lions one of the integral pieces to make Matt Patricia’s defense work.

Jeff Okudah will be a rookie cornerback that will get picked on by opposing offenses, but he’s also proven how dedicated he is to his craft as he has done his homework asked veterans around the league for pointers and watching as much film as he can get his hands on. His endless questions and search for knowledge have even provoked Undlin to ask Okudah if he has any other interests.

This doesn’t mean he will be ready to play like a veteran, but it is the type of work ethic that causes others to work harder. It causes others to keep up because they see the handwriting on the wall if they don’t.

So there are positives for a defense that was so putrid that it gave up 11 second-half leads last season. But while the all-around consistency of the Lions defense has to be much better, there is one area that will ultimately tell the tale of the tape for 2020.