The Detroit Lions now have a healthy “problem”, and Pro Football Focus has outlined it with a lofty place on a training camp positional battles list.
Practically any way you’d like to look at it, the Detroit Lions had one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL last year. Sacks, pressure rate, quarterback hits, knockdowns, on down the line. And that was with a breakthrough season from Charles Harris (7.5 sacks). Otherwise, it would have been even uglier.
Losing Romeo Okwara (10 sacks in 2020) to an torn Achilles’ in Week 4 last year hurt the Lions pass rush big-time. His younger brother Julian Okwara showed somed flashes, but a full step-up didn’t quite happen.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus has gone through all the positions and named the biggest camp battle in the league, with some alternatives mentioned in footnote fashion. For edge rusher, he went with the Lions as the biggest upcoming camp battle in the league.
PFF points to new “problem for the Detroit Lions
"EDGE RUSHER: DETROIT LIONS — AIDAN HUTCHINSON VS. CHARLES HARRIS VS ROMEO OKWARA VS. JOSH PASCHALHutchinson isn’t the only rookie looking to make an impact, as Paschal also brings plenty of college production to the table. Paschal posted a 90.2 overall PFF grade this past season, and he was particularly effective against the run, giving him an avenue to playing time even if he isn’t the best pass-rusher of the group. Romeo’s brother, Julian Okwara, is also in the mix.This is a talented group of rushers and if things improve elsewhere on the defense, they could platoon to be a formidable unit."
The Lions got aggressive to bolster their pass rush with the additions of Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal in the first two rounds of April’s draft. Okwara’s return to health, whenever he is able to play, will be an interesting fit back into the picture. Harris has acknowledged plays he left on the field last year, as he efforts to be more consistent this year.
As Monson noted in the spot about the Lions’ edge group in his piece, depth and being able to rotate in fresh legs has become very important at the edge rusher spot. The Lions didn’t have much of any depth there going into last year, and Romeo Okwara’s injury exposed it more. A thin roster all the way around was reflected in who they had (outside of Harris) to rely on coming off the edge for much of the season, and the pass rush’s results on the whole.
As they move to using more four-man fronts, and once Okwara is healthy, there are passing down scenarios where the Lions could end up having Hutchinson, Harris, Okwara and Paschal on the field at the same time. That itself points to the edge rusher depth they now have, and trying to find snaps for everyone is a healthy “problem” for the defensive staff led by coordinator Aaron Glenn.