Is the Detroit Lions secondary now its best defensive unit?

Tracy Walker, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Tracy Walker, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions revamped their secondary this offseason. Is it now their top defensive unit?

For years, the Detroit Lions have struggled with the question of who to pair with former number one cornerback Darius Slay in the secondary. But after trading the three-time Pro Bowler away this offseason, did the Lions’ secondary actually get stronger?

It’s hard to imagine a positional unit losing its best player only to improve without him. But the Lions may have accomplished this in the offseason.

The cornerback revolution in Detroit really started last year with the signing of one of the league’s top slot corners in Justin Coleman. The revamping continued into this year with the Lions signing free agent corner and one-time Pro Bowler Desmond Trufant to a two-year deal. Then, using the third overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft on Ohio State defensive back Jeff Okudah.

The safety revolution began two years ago in Motown, with the Lions using back-to-back third-round draft picks on the position. Those selections resulted in the additions of Tracy Walker and Will Harris respectively. This past offseason, Detroit flipped a fifth-round draft pick to the New England Patriots in a trade for veteran safety Duron Harmon and a seventh-rounder.

The Lions clearly needed the make some major changes to their secondary. After all, this is a unit that ranked dead last in passing yards allowed (4,551) in 2019. And their seven total interceptions were tied with two other NFL teams for the lowest in the league.

Yet, one Lions’ insider has now declared this positional unit to actually be the team’s top defensive group. Here’s what Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press wrote about the secondary after projecting that Detroit keeps 11 defensive backs on their final roster in September.

"“I view the secondary as the strength of the Lions defense, despite the turnover this offseason, and NFL teams play so much sub-package defense that it makes sense to keep 11 defensive backs in a year where depth will play such an important part in the success of a team”"

I’m not sure many would have imagined that the Lions’ secondary would be considered the strength of the defense without Darius Slay. In fact, that could be seen as somewhat of an indictment on the front seven as creating a consistent and effective pass rush will likely be the team’s biggest defensive hurdle in 2020.

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Obviously, this Detroit Lions’ defense has a lot to prove coming off a 3-12-1 season. And the fact the offseason training program was forced to go virtual due to a worldwide pandemic will not make it an easy transition for many of their new additions. But if the secondary can acclimate quickly, it’s not hard to imagine them being viewed as the main reason behind the defensive resurgence in the Motor City.