The Detroit Lions are hoping for a defensive resurgence in 2021. That after fielding the worst defense in the NFL last season.
The Lions ranked dead last in total yards in 2020 allowing a whopping 6,716 to opposing offenses. The passing defense ranked 30th (4,558), the run defense was ranked 28th (2,158), and their scoring defense allowed an average of 32.4 points per game, the most points in the NFL last season.
Motown is in rebuilding mode after hiring a new general manager in Brad Holmes and a new head coach in Dan Campbell this offseason. The defense welcomes their third defensive coordinator in three years with the addition of former New Orleans Saints defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn.
One area of major concern this offseason has been the Lions’ linebacker corps. Detroit opted to part ways with former first-rounder Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, and Reggie Ragland earlier this year. In their place, the Lions re-signed Jalen Reeves-Maybin, signed veteran free agent Alex Anzalone, and drafted Purdue rookie Derrick Barnes.
Despite the changes, it’s clear the Lions will rely heavily on the play of Jamie Collins to help revive this defensive unit. The 31-year old linebacker posted solid numbers in his first season in Detroit. That after inking a three-year, $30 million deal last March as a free agent.
Collins recorded 101 combined tackles, six tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, and three forced fumbles in 2020 as a 14-game starter. He led the team in total tackles in his first season in Motown as well.
With a new defensive coordinator in place and a new defensive scheme to learn, Collins figures to be a pivotal piece for this unit based on the moves made (and not made) this offseason. Here’s what Sam Monson wrote for the football analytic website Pro Football Focus recently after ranking Collins the 26th best linebacker entering the 2021 NFL season.
"“Detroit’s defense may have been a disaster in 2020, but Jamie Collins Sr. enjoyed his best season yet outside of New England. Collins recorded three pass breakups and an interception in coverage, added 11 total quarterback pressures and forced three fumbles on the year. He remains a very scheme-dependent player, but he at least showed he can be an impressive force away from Bill Belichick.”"
While the Detroit Lions acquisition of Jamie Collins last year was a signing made by the previous regime that coveted former New England Patriots players, the decisions made this offseason by the current brass make it clearly evident that the veteran linebacker’s play is going to be key to any sort of defensive resurgence in 2021.