Detroit Lions: Romeo, Romeo! Where forth art thou Romeo?
By Robert Jones
What will make the pass-rush different this season?
It was no secret that the Lions defense was completely incapable of pressuring opposing passers last season. They were certainly inconsistent against the run as well, but the pass defense was without question the biggest problem and it all started with the absence of a consistent pass-rush.
Last year the secondary was the strength of the defense, just like we expect it to be this season, but they were put under tremendous stress by the amount of time opposing quarterbacks had to throw the ball. No one can cover a receiver forever and enemy passers had all the time they could ask for.
Consider this: Mitch Trubisky of the Chicago Bears had an awful season except against the Lions. Only Detroit’s defense was bad enough last year to make Trubisky look like Aaron Rodgers.
We are told that this season will be different, but what will make it different? The Lions did add several new pieces to the defense, but they didn’t add a dominant pass-rusher. Third-round pick Julian Okwara has the potential to be a pretty good pass-rusher, but how quickly he will be able to consistently contribute off the edge is a question.
Quite frankly the middle of the defensive line might have more promise at the moment. Danny Shelton is a run-stuffer by trade but he is coming off a big year rushing the passer in New England and might be able to contribute for Detroit even if he will most likely be off the field on most obvious passing downs.
Nick Williams is coming off a career year with the Bears and is being counted on to bring some pressure up the middle and a healthy Da’Shawn Hand has the ability to slide to the inside and create pressure as well.
When we spotlight the edge, it’s a different matter. Between injuries and inconsistency, all the pressure is on Trey Flowers and the unproven Julian Okwara to stay healthy and bring the heat to opposing passers.
The other hope is that new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin will be given an opportunity to be more aggressive than Matt Patricia was last season. But there is one other returning player that has the capability of contributing to the pass-rush.