With awful play at linebacker, the Lions should start Derrick Barnes
By Robert Jones
There will be growing pains for Aaron Glenn’s defense
No one will watch this defense and consider them the next coming of the ‘Steel Curtain’, at least not this season, but there are a few facets that are working in the Lions’ favor.
The first is the defensive line. Nose tackle Alim McNeill has been impressive in camp and like most rookies is trying to figure out how to use his talents to his advantage in actual games. Fellow rookie Levi Onwuzurike was just able to play in his first game last week after very little practice time.
They both have a ways to go, but along with a healthy Michael Brockers, Da’Shawn Hand, Nick Williams, Kevin Strong, and John Penisini that isn’t a bad starting place for the three-man defensive line. Could it use more talent? Sure, but in the Lions case, that can be said about every position.
Meanwhile, on the edge, Aaron Glenn has converted Trey Flowers, Romeo Okwara, his younger brother Julian, and Austin Bryant to outside linebacker. This is a big makeover that will take time to truly see what Glenn has here, but there have been flashes off the edge in the pass-rush and that is an aspect of the game that needs to improve greatly in order for the Lions’ defense to become better.
The secondary is mostly young and there continues to be concern about last year’s number three overall selection cornerback Jeff Okudah. Outside of the deep pass he gave up to Pittsburgh he has played better than last year.
Amani Oruwariye continues to steadily build upon his improvement over the last two seasons and Jerry Jacobs has come out of nowhere to play with a maturity beyond his years.
We would like to see more improvement from Ifeatu Melifonwu, but all players progress at different rates. I’m also still not convinced that safety might be his real home in the future.
When you consider how many of these players we’ve looked at are either still very young or playing a new position, it is easy to understand that there will be growing pains for Aaron Glenn’s defense. But if they can learn to execute this new scheme, there should be improvement.
However, much more talent is needed before they will be ready to play any truly meaningful games. Especially in the middle of the defense.