Is defensive line key to Detroit Lions success in the secondary?

Levi Onwuzurike #75 and Jashon Cornell #96 of the Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Levi Onwuzurike #75 and Jashon Cornell #96 of the Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

As the Detroit Lions get into training camp and look at the roster adjustments they’ve made on the field versus on paper, one thing might stick out. There are some big additions that they’ve made to the defensive line. And those might be the key to finally stabilizing a shaky secondary.

If you take a look at the Lions double-dipping in the draft at defensive tackle with Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill, and then factor in the addition of veteran Michael Brockers, you’ll realize this 2021 squad focused more on the interior defensive line more than any regime in the past decade. Even when the defensive tackle position seemed thin and was an obvious area to upgrade, it was ignored.

Fast forward to this year and there’s promise and potential in the defensive trenches for this Detroit Lions team. So much so, that it might be able to help their friends on the back end of the defense. With two rookies entering the league, it might not happen right away. But with the approach of avoiding flashy trades for big names and using draft capital to improve the team, the expectations should match the time it takes to deliver.

Young cornerback Jeff Okudah and his mates in the secondary could use a boost after being ranked in the bottom three units league-wide. With the departure of former cornerback Darius Slay, the back end of the defense is short on nationally recognized star power, but they shouldn’t be short on productive players heading into the season. The hope is the defensive line helps them out.

Here’s what Brockers said via during training camp this week in a Benjamin Raven story on MLive.

"“This is a new era. I’ve been a part of a new regime and coming in and having that unknown factor. But when you have a lot of guys buying in, you have a lot of guys trusting in the process and just coming to work, it shows on the field. You won’t see it now. You probably won’t — a lot of people are doubting us but that’s OK. As long as we come in every day and focus one day at a time on what we have to do, we’ll be all right.”"

The expectations for this season seem to be tempered, even within the Lions locker room. But the positivity and buy-in from players in the trenches like Brockers is a very good sign. He knows his role and he’s going to work hard to do what the team needs. Setting that example for the two newly-drafted defensive tackles should set a good precedent for the 2021 season and beyond.

Unfortunately, we won’t know how big of an impact Brockers’ influence will have until more than a few games into the season. Either way, his presence and the talent Onwuzurike and McNeill bring to the field could put enough pressure on opposing offenses to help the secondary out. And that’s going to be very noticeable this season as the draft did add one cornerback, but only after the trenches had been addressed.

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If the defensive line can be disruptive and the young players come into their own quickly to make a positive impact, the secondary will surely benefit this season. The defense overall might even turn a few heads, especially given some low rankings being thrown around. for this Detroit Lions team and their defensive units.