The Detroit Lions must revamp their linebacker corps this offseason
The Detroit Lions ended the 2020 NFL regular season with the worst defense in the entire league. That’s almost a laughable notion considering this is the same organization that hired a touted defensive genius three years ago in head coach Matt Patricia.
Yet, Patricia wasn’t able to bring that defensive prowess to the Motor City. And he ultimately proved himself to be a paper Lion when it came to the duties of being an NFL head coach, earning himself an early exit from the organization at the end of November. His failures aided in general manager Bob Quinn being shown the door as well.
This rudderless ship of a franchise came into the harbor on Sunday, having lost six of their last season games, and preparing for yet another rebuild. And while there are plenty of unanswered questions peppering the entire roster, the Lions defense is a major concern.
This unit ranked dead last in total defense, allowing 6,716 yards to opposing offenses in 2020. Detroit was also 32nd in scoring defense, allowing a whopping 32.4 points a game to be scored against them. The Lions only recorded a total of 12 takeaways the entire year, the second-lowest in the NFL.
With a new regime incoming in Motown, the defense will have to be a major focus. And one area, in particular, might have to be torn down completely and rebuilt from scratch.
Here’s what Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press wrote about the Lions’ linebacker corps and why he once again gave them a stock down grade to end the season.
"“It’s seems like one or more linebacker makes ‘stock down’ every week, and Sunday’s game re-emphasized the point that this unit needs a complete overhaul this offseason. The unit is too slow and poor in pass coverage. I can only imagine what Chris Spielman was thinking watching these last few games.”"
The Lions’ linebacker corps was led by former New England Patriots’ standout Jamie Collins, who was a 14-game starter this season. He inked a three-year, $30 million contract this past March and posted 101 tackles, six pass deflections, three forced fumble, 1.0 sack, and one interception.
Christian Jones started 13 games for Detroit this season, racking up 57 tackles. He’s currently under contract through 2021.
Jahlani Tavai was drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft specifically to fit into Patricia’s defensive scheme. The 24-year old linebacker started 10 games in his second season in Detroit, posting 58 total tackles. That’s the exact same number of combined tackles he recorded as a rookie despite starting in four fewer contests.
2017 first-rounder, Jarrad Davis, has likely played his last game in the Motor City. That after he started just four games during the final year of his rookie contract. That’s due to the fact the Lions refused to pick up his fifth-year option.
Reggie Ragland and Jason Cabinda round out the linebackers who started a game for Detroit this past season. Jalen Reeves-Maybin didn’t have a start in 2020 for the third time in his four seasons with the Lions.
Cabinda is a restricted free agent this offseason. Davis, Ragland, and Reeves-Maybin are all set to become unrestricted free agents when the market opens in March.
There’s no getting around the fact that the linebacker corps is a very lackluster positional unit for the Detroit Lions. And the new regime in the Motor City will have plenty of work cut out for them to make this entire defense unit competitive in 2021.