The Detroit Lions went from being the worst scoring defense in 2020 to the No. 29 scoring defense this year, and there will be clear opportunities to add pieces for further improvement.
Despite a rash of injuries and a lack of Pro Bowl talent, general manager Brad Holmes, head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn managed to put together a better Detroit Lions defense in their first season than their predecessors did in their last.
As the season progressed and players latched onto Aaron Glenn’s scheme and strategies, Detroit played better defensively and finished 3-3 in their last six games of the season. After the bye week, the Lions allowed less than 20 points five times in nine games.
The season ended on an upswing, with safety Tracy Walker being selected the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 18. It was the first time in three years that a Lion had been selected defensive player of the week.
Walker recorded 14 tackles and picked off Packers backup quarterback Jordan Love on Green Bay’s final offensive play of the game to seal the 37-30 win in the season finale. He also led the team in tackles with 108 this season.
Detroit Lions will have opportunity to add a top-end edge rusher and a top-end linebacker
Only finishing ahead of the Jets, Texans and Vikings in scoring defense, the Lions need to add a dominant pass rusher and a top-notch linebacker during the offseason. Draft candidates Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan or Kayvon Thibodeaux of Oregon, who they’ll have their pick of with the No. 2 overall pick, would be a great fit as an edge rusher for Detroit.
A linebacker could come through the draft or free agency. Utah’s Devin Lloyd is highly regarded as a linebacker candidate in the draft. In many mock drafts, he is slated as a late first-round selection.
The prime linebacker target in free agency could be Christian Kirksey. He had 93 tackles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and eight pass breakups for the Houston Texans in 2021, and as an eight-year veteran he’s not a great fit for the rebuilding Texans. The Lions will certainly have competition for his services, but the opportunity will be there to sign him or nab someone else to bolster the linebacking corps in free agency.