The Detroit Lions will enter the 2021 NFL regular season in the midst of a rebuild. Yet, prior to the start of training camp, there’s hope that the massive amount of offseason changes made by the franchise will give fans a glimmer of hope that the Motor City might be competitive this upcoming season.
But the Pride will face several obstacles in 2021. The biggest hurdle could be their schedule. Of the total 14 opponents the Lions will face this upcoming season, eight of them posted a record of 8-8 or better in 2020.
And the fact there have been so many changes to both the Lions’ coaching staff and the roster could result in a slow start for Detroit this upcoming season as you have to expect it will take time for this new squad to build chemistry. That could make for a tough uphill battle for the Lions early on in the NFC North race as out of their first five games this season, three of those contests will be on the road against divisional opponents.
Despite all that the Lions are up against heading into the new season, one insider still thinks Detroit could win more games than they did in 2020. Tim Twentyman over at DetroitLions.com believes defensive coaching will be the key to the Lions besting their 5-11 record from last season. Here’s how Twentyman responded when asked about what his expectations are for the Lions in 2021.
"“There’s a lot of excitement in Detroit surrounding new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and what his new schemes and philosophies could mean for that side of the ball … my expectation is for the Lions to be better on defense. That will go a long way to helping this team be better overall. If I was a betting man, which I’m not, I’d take the over on Las Vegas’ five-win total for Detroit in 2021.”"
The Lions fielded the worst defense in the NFL last season ranking dead last in yards allowed to opposing offenses (6,716) and giving up a league-worst scoring average of 32.4 points per game. So there’s really nowhere to go but up for this unit.
Detroit made investments into their defensive line this offseason that should improve their play in the trenches. The Lions traded for veteran defensive tackle Michael Brockers. They also used their second and third round selections in the 2021 NFL Draft on defensive tackles in Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill respectively.
After posting the first double-digit sack performance of his career, the Lions inked defensive end Romeo Okwara to a new three-year deal. Combined with the presence of Trey Flowers, the team’s defensive line should be much improved in 2021.
Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions about the Lions’ linebacker corps and secondary going into training camp. Much of the defensive backfield’s success will rely on the development of players like second-year cornerback Jeff Okudah and veteran safety Tracy Walker.
Linebacker Jamie Collins appears to be the linchpin of this new Lions defense unit heading into his second season in Detroit. But the talent surrounding Collins is questionable with former second-rounder Jahlani Tavai being a potential roster bubble candidate this summer and new additions like Alex Anzalone and rookie Derrick Barnes possibly playing pivotal roles when the season starts.
The Detroit Lions are likely better candidates to earn themselves the number one overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft rather than posting a winning record in the midst of a rebuild. Still, an improved defensive effort could be enough to eclipse the results of the previous season. But perhaps the better takeaway for fans is that any signs of improvement in 2021 should be celebrated after three straight years of disappointment.