How changes on the Lions defense can lead to more wins

Detroit Lions defense - Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Lions defense - Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports /
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John Penisini, Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions defensive tackle John Penisini – Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Lions won a critical game in Jacksonville and defensive changes led the charge

The Detroit Lions held the Jacksonville Jaguars to 16 points last Sunday in a dominant 34-16 victory. On the surface, the Jaguars aren’t the strongest team in the world. Despite that fact, before their matchup with the Lions, the Jags were averaging 22 points a game.

Most would figure a team averaging 22 points per game this season would have a lot of success against Detroit’s struggling defense. This, however, wasn’t the case. Mainly due to a plethora of changes on the defensive side of the ball.

After an in-depth review of the game, here are the key differences I found from Weeks One through Four compared to Week Six’s victory in Jacksonville.

Part I – Approaching the Run

First and foremost, Patricia didn’t change his scheme. He changed the personnel used in the front-seven. You’d usually see two defensive tackles in the first four weeks, a defensive end and a hybrid linebacker.

Either tackle Danny Shelton and Nick Williams would be in or rookie John Penisini and Da’Shawn Hand rotate in for them. Defensive ends Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara took turns each drive. Per usual, linebackers in Jamie Collins Sr., Reggie Ragland, Christian Jones, Jahlani Tavai, and Jarrad Davis would come in and out at different spots.

Last week they used three defensive tackles in the middle in Shelton, Penisini, and Williams as their starters with Hand rotating. One thing to point out, it was reminiscent of the strategy used when nose tackle Damon Harrison Sr. was traded to Detroit.

Former defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and Harrison Sr would be used on early downs, making it difficult for teams to run against them. Maybe Shelton and Penisini could be their new version of that. This strategy essentially makes Flowers and Okwara the hybrid linebackers on the edges. With Collins as the MIKE linebacker.

They would often sub out a defensive back in favor of an extra linebacker, moving to a 3-4 defense from a 3-3-5. It ended up being extremely useful, holding the Jaguars to 16 carries and 44 rushing yards as a team. Which would be a season-low for them.

Detroit finally found a way to get their best players on the field at the same time. Just as defensive coordinator Cory Undlin preached, stopping the run led to more pass-rushing opportunities.