Detroit Lions Week 18 report card: A changing of the guard in the NFC North

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /
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Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions
Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images /

Run defense: 4/5 stars 

Isaiah Buggs and Alim McNeill deserve so much credit for how they helped transform the Lions’ run defense. Early in the game, the Packers used a lot of motion and end-arounds to mess with the Lions’ front. However, when they ran straight up Buggs and McNeill were steady presences in the middle. They both came up with key stops at different points in the game, which helped hold the Packers to field goals.

It wasn’t a flawless game. Aaron Jones was still able to create on the ground, but his efficiency was limited. The game plan to stop the Packers revolved around stopping the run, and the Lions did enough in that department thanks to the big boys in the middle.

Pass defense: 3/5 stars

This is a weird evaluation. On the one hand, the Lions did hold the Packers to under 200 total passing yards, including getting an interception on Green Bay’s final drive. On the other hand, this game proved why cornerback is the team’s biggest need heading into the offseason. There’s a legitimate argument that zero of the Lions’ 2023 starting corners are on the roster right now.

Jerry Jacobs played fine, but was far from good. Mike Hughes got beat a few times before getting injured. And of course, there’s Amani Oruwariye who we will talk about in a moment. Detroit’s roster has taken significant strides over the past 10 weeks, but the cornerback room seems to have been left behind. It wasn’t detrimental in this game, but the secondary absolutely needs to be bolstered.

Best defensive player: DE Aidan Hutchinson 

What a way to end an incredible rookie season. Hutchinson, as the second overall pick, came into the season with incredibly high expectations. He not only met those expectations, but he also managed to exceed them. He tallied a pair of sacks in the season finale to push his total to 9.5 on the year, reclaiming the team lead as well as the rookie lead from teammate James Houston.

Hutchinson has been the defensive MVP this season–a consistent contributor who got better week after week. The arrow pointed up all year long, and you can assume there will be some major expectations for his sophomore campaign.

Worst defensive player: CB Amani Oruwariye 

In what was probably his last game as a Lion, Oruwariye unfortunately showed more of the fall from grace we’ve seen this season. He entered the game after Hughes was injured, and it took two plays before the Packers targeted him on a deep ball. It was caught by Christian Watson, despite a defensive pass interference by Oruwariye.

It’s been a struggle of a season, but this scheme was just not suited to his strengths. Oruwariye is not a good man-cover corner and Detroit heavily relies on cover-1, meaning the outside corners have to be able to hold up in man. Hopefully, he can find a home that will better suit his strengths.