Detroit Lions: Is it possible the defense will be ahead of the offense?
By Robert Jones
The defensive line is better than the offensive line right now
While the defense wasn’t very good in the preseason, again, it was just the preseason. Once the Lions kick off the regular season with San Francisco next week, the defense will feature the best Detroit has to offer.
Now in saying that I am certainly not intimating that these Motor City cats have turned into the ‘Doomsday defense’, but let’s consider what they do have.
The defensive line does have talent and depth. They would be a little better off if Da’Shawn Hand was healthy, but even in his absence, they aren’t bad. Michael Brockers, Levi Onwuzurike, Alim McNeill, Nick Williams, Kevin Strong, and John Penisni are good enough to give the Lions a respectable presence at the line of scrimmage.
Meanwhile, Romeo Okwara, Trey Flowers, Julian Okwara, Austin Bryant, and Charlie Harris on edge or outside linebacker as they are designated in Aaron Glenn’s defense can all bring the heat on the pass-rush. A commodity that has been sorely lacking the last few years.
One question worth asking is how these edge rushers will do when asked to drop into coverage? We will find out soon enough, but they will help against the run at the line of scrimmage and on the pass rush. The real questions are everyone behind them.
The middle linebackers were exposed and mostly taken advantage of throughout the exhibition season. Jaime Collins and Alex Anzalone should be serviceable, but it seems like the sooner that Derrick Barnes claims one of those interior positions, the better off the defense will be.
While the middle linebackers especially are a huge question, the secondary is very young.
The average age of the cornerbacks on the active roster is 23 years old. That’s young and there will be growing pains. But with some solid play from the safeties and an improved pass rush, the secondary could be serviceable.
What does all this mean? Well, the Lions will struggle on both sides of the ball. Any plays down the field, whether it be Detroit’s offense or defense, could be questionable. However, the separator in my mind is the line.
The offensive line is still building cohesiveness and is also not very deep. The defensive line is pretty deep and when we add in the converted edge linebackers, this unit will be a strength. Granted poor play by the middle backers can torpedo all the promise the Lions have in the trenches, but the D-line is the Lions overall most talented and deepest position group. That makes it the tie-breaker.
As the season unfolds, I expect to see the Lions rushing attack improve, but I also expect the defense as a whole to improve as well.
Given Aaron Glenn’s track record with coaching defensive backs as well as the aggressive style the Lions defense will be playing, I expect it to be the strength of a team that still needs much more talent before it’s ready to challenge for anything meaningful.