Pass rush will drive defensive improvement for the Detroit Lions in 2022

Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson goes through drills during OTAs on Thursday, June 2, 2022, in Allen Park.Lions
Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson goes through drills during OTAs on Thursday, June 2, 2022, in Allen Park.Lions /

If the Detroit Lions are going to be better defensively this year, the pass rush will be the driving force.

Despite his being professed as a defensive guru, the Detroit Lions defense became among the worst in the league under Matt Patricia. Last year, things weren’t a lot better as a young and talent-thin unit allowed the second-most points in the league (27.4 per game) and the fourth-most total yards (379.7 total yards per game).

The Lions also ranked near the bottom of the league in sacks (30; third-fewest) and interceptions (11). Take out Charles Harris’ 7.5 sacks and Amani Oruwariye’s six interceptions, and those numbers would have been awful, and that would put it mildly.

Naturally, the Lions’ pass rush was also bad in many (if not all) deeper metrics–win rate, pressure rate, knockdowns, total pressures, etc. Per CBS Sports, their 24.4 percent pressure rate and 147 pressures were both second-worst in the league. Pro Football Reference’s data is a little different, but not much.

Pass rush will drive any notable Detroit Lions defensive improvement this year

In the aforementioned CBS Sports piece, Jeff Kerr had the following nuggets regarding Lions’ rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.

"The Lions are banking on Aidan Hutchinson to transform a pass rush that immensely struggled in 2021, a major reason why they drafted him No. 2 overall. Hutchinson had the second-highest pressure rate (14.2%) in the FBS since 2019, second only to Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. To measure Hutchinson’s value, Michigan had a 35% pressure rate when Hutchinson was on the field (fifth in NCAA), but just 28% when he was off the field (62nd in NCAA) in 2021."

After taking Hutchinson No. 2 overall, the Lions doubled-down on defensive line help by taking Josh Paschal in the second round (46th overall).

A switch to more four-man fronts this year, and a general shift in mentality, can only help the Lions’ defensive line and pass rush be better. After last year, and the years just prior, it can’t be much worse.

With a more effective pass rush comes a lack of comfort for opposing quarterbacks in the pocket. With that comes disruption of timing, errant throws, batted balls, sacks, fumbles, etc.

The Lions’ pass rush will naturally be better this year, the question is how much. Any notable defensive improvement will start there though, with everything else flowing from it.

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