Based on the preseason opener and what the regular season schedule brings, the Detroit Lions have a big problem defensively.
The Detroit Lions‘ defense should automatically be better this year, but it will be a process. Aaron Glenn has changed the scheme to a base 4-3, as position battles at linebacker and the secondary will continue to play out before the season starts.
After the Lions’ first team offense went right down the field on Friday night against the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener, it was the defense’s turn to show its progress. The Falcons’ proceeded to take almost nine and a half minutes off the clock on an 82-yard march, capped by a touchdown run from quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Mariota completed two passes for 36 yards on that drive, while adding 23 rushing yards on three attempts.
Falcons rookie signal caller Desmond Ridder played the rest of the game against the Lions, with two passing touchdowns along with 59 rushing yards on six carries.
The Lions’ struggles against Atlanta’s mobile quarterbacks was not limited to them finding room to run. Misdirection found the Detroit defense out of position to contain bootlegs that led to too-easy throws.
Detroit Lions issue defending mobile quarterbacks will be exposed if it’s not fixed
After Friday night’s game, Lions head coach Dan Campbell talked about the defense struggling against Atlanta’s signal callers and the important of getting reps against mobile quarterbacks.
"Yeah, it will be everything because look, they don’t see that from us because we don’t have these mobile quarterbacks like that,” Campbell said. “And so, to see that and get live reps at that — it’s really just a reminder and an emphasis on them. You know, gap control, contain, contain rush, all these things man. And you have to rely on the guy next to you that he’s going to be where he’s supposed to be. That you can trust him, because we allowed them to break contain more than a couple of times. So, that’s just a matter of discipline.”"
Right away in Week 1, the Lions will face the Philadelphia Eagles and Jalen Hurts. In last year’s matchup the Eagles dominated the Lions on the ground, with Hurts contributing 71 yards on seven carries.
After that season opener, here are some games the Lions will have against quarterbacks who can move around and do some things on their own with their legs.
Week 2-Washington Commanders (Carson Wentz)
Week 7-@ Dallas Cowboys (Dak Prescott)
Week 8-Miami Dolphins (Tua Tagovailoa)
Week 10-@ Chicago Bears (Justin Fields)
Week 11-@ New York Giants (Daniel Jones)
Week 12-Buffalo Bills (Josh Allen)
Week 13-Jacksonville Jaguars (Trevor Lawrence)
Week 15-@ New York Jets (Zach Wilson)
Week 16-@ Carolina Panthers (Baker Mayfield)
Week 17-Chicago Bears (Fields)
The proven quality of the above quarterbacks is wide-ranging. And I’ve left out two games against Aaron Rodgers, who can still move and make things happen a little even if he’s not the threat to take off and run that he once was.
Failing to maintain discipline and containment against mobile quarterbacks will bite the Lions over and over this season if they don’t get it fixed. Review of Friday night’s game film will bring hard lessons for some guys, and perhaps some design adjustments. Practice reps with someone acting as a mobile quarterback, which appears to be a big root of the issue, will have to follow.