Detroit Lions pass rush and secondary still major concerns

Detroit Lions (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions have some major defensive concerns to tackle this upcoming season

The Detroit Lions realized they had a major problem this offseason. Despite possessing a head coach with a Super Bowl-winning defensive pedigree, the Lions’ defense looked anything but in 2019.

Ranking dead last in passing yards allowed, 31st in total yards allowed, tied for 32nd in lowest team interceptions, and tied for 31st in total sacks, the “D” in Detroit stood for disappointing. And that’s shocking considering the man at the helm.

So, the Lions hired a new defensive coordinator in Cory Undlin this offseason. The team also parted ways with veterans like cornerback Darius Slay, linebacker Devon Kennard, defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, defensive Tavon Wilson, and others. And Detroit welcome another onslaught of former New England Patriots in linebacker Jamie Collins, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, and safety Duron Harmon.

But there are still two major areas of concern along the defense that the Lions will need to find answers for. That’s a lack of pass rush plus several new faces in the secondary. And continued deficiencies in those areas could make Detroit a one-dimensional team this upcoming season.

Here’s what NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund wrote about why the Lions’ offense will probably have to carry the defense in 2020 after revealing Detroit’s projected win total at only 6.1 victories.

"” … the Lions’ pass defense remains a huge concern. Last season, Matt Patricia’s D allowed the most passing yards per game (284.4), ranked 31st in disruptions (how often the defense is able to come within 5 feet of an opposing QB at a relevant time and in his field of vision) and tied for allowing the fourth-most passing touchdowns (33).”"

While the Lions did sign former Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant as a free agent this offseason, and they used the third overall pick in the 2020 draft on Ohio State corner Jeff Okudah, many believe excellent secondary play starts in the trenches. And that’s where Detroit could struggle the most.

The Lions did bulk up the interior of their defensive line with the 6-foot-2, 345-pound Shelton this offseason. They also signed former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Nick Williams, who racked up 6.0 sacks last season in only five starts.

But Detroit did little to add more pass rushers to a defense that recorded a near league-low 28 sacks in 2019. In fact, the Lions opted to part ways with Kennard, a player who co-led the team with 7.0 sacks last year.

Detroit did use their third-round selection in the 2020 draft to acquire rookie defensive end Julian Okwara, who recorded 13.0 sacks over his final two seasons at Notre Dame. But outside of that, the Lions did next to nothing to address their pass-rushing woes.

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Instead, it appears the Detroit Lions will hope for bounce-back performances from players like defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand and Romeo Okwara to help defensive end Trey Flowers and the newly-signed Jamie Collins put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

That seems like a risky gamble. One that could result in a very tired throwing arm for quarterback Matthew Stafford and another six-win season in Detroit.