Detroit Lions: What improved position could cause the biggest turnaround?

Detroit Lions helmet (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit Lions helmet (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Jamie Collins, Detroit Lions (Photo by Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)
Jamie Collins, Detroit Lions (Photo by Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports) /

More stops mean a better chance to compete

This past season the Lions defense was beyond abysmal as the franchise turned in its worst performance, defensively, in its long and at one point forever ago, storied history.

The real question we should ask ourselves is this; why should anyone have been surprised?

When Matt Patricia arrived three years ago he tore down what was an average defense that needed to improve and steadily led it backwards over the course of his time here.

in 2018 the defense actually finished with a flourish after the acquisition of nose-tackle Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison. However, 2019 saw a big regression in the defense as it approached many franchise lows. This past season, undaunted by expectations of improvement, the defense was able to bring misery to its fans by being abhorrent at a record-setting level.

Defense wins championships, but even if Brad Holmes has a good offseason acquiring help for the defense, there is still more work to be done than can be accomplished in just one offseason before the Lions will have a chance to truly be competitive. Yet improved defense gives the Lions their best opportunity to have any kind of competitive success this fall.

So what defensive position group could make a difference? The secondary could use some help, but a consistent pass-rush would be a great starting point for any secondary, talented, or otherwise.

That being said I think the answer lies in the front seven. The defensive line doesn’t have any real game-changers, except possibly Trey Flowers, and will most likely lose their top sack artist from last season Romeo Okwara, due to salary cap restraints.

However, assuming first-time defensive coordinator Aaron Glen goes the route of a base 3-4 defense which would be consistent with what he mostly played and coached in until landing in New Orleans five years ago, I would have to say that an improved linebacker corp would give the Lions their best chance to have any kind of success next season.

The reason is simple, while the Lions defensive line isn’t flashy, they do have enough pieces that can do a workmanlike job upfront if supported by better linebacker play.

A group of linebackers that read, react, play their scheme well, and arrive with a nasty disposition would give the defense an instant boost.

This would not only increase their efficiency in the run game but consider teams like Pittsburgh who run a 3-4 and get the majority of their pass-rush from the linebackers. This would also give the secondary some help by having more consistent pressure on opposing passers. More stops mean a better chance to compete.

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The Lions are in a rebuild and it will take time before they are truly ready to compete for anything meaningful, but if the linebacker position became a strength, that should translate to improved play. And if nothing else it would at least mean being a little competitive this fall.