Detroit Lions have the NFL’s most improved secondary this offseason

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Brad Holmes saw a big weakness and attacked it, leading to the Detroit Lions having the most improved secondary in the NFL.

Things were a little better from the previous year in terms of interceptions, but the Detroit Lions were still 30th in the league in pass defense last season (245.8 yards allowed per game) and 31st in yards part attempt allowed (7.9).

General manager Brad Holmes saw that weakness, the biggest on the Lions’ roster, and attacked it. Free agency brought cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley, then hybrid slot corner/safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson as the first wave of signings wound down.

With few pieces, particularly cornerbacks, signed beyond 2023, secondary was still somewhat of a need entering the draft for the Lions. Cornerback was in play with at least one of their two first-round picks. Ultimately, the landed one of the seals of the draft in Alabama safety Brian Branch in the second round at No. 45 overall.

Detroit Lions: The NFL’s most improved secondary this offseason

Pro Football Focus highlighted what they see as the five most improved secondaries in the NFL after free agency and the draft.

Here’s what Zoltan Buday wrote about the Lions, who were the first team mentioned.

"Arguably no team has done a better job of bolstering its secondary this offseason than the Lions.Admittedly, it was not hard to strengthen the unit considering that the Lions defense had a 48.8 overall PFF coverage grade in 2022, which was the lowest in the NFL. Safety Tracy Walker was the highest-graded defensive back on the Lions despite only playing in their first three games. Furthermore, no Detroit cornerback earned a 65.0-plus PFF grade in 2022. The Lions front office was aggressive in free agency to fix that unit, signing cornerbacks Moseley and Sutton, who have both earned 65.0-plus PFF grades higher in three of their last four seasons and should represent an instant improvement for the Lions secondary. In addition, Detroit also added versatile safety Gardner-Johnson in free agency and drafted Branch in the second round."

Even from a position of “it wouldn’t have taken much”, it’s not really arguable that the Lions did better than any other team to bolster their secondary this offseason. In comes Sutton, Moseley, Gardner-Johnson and Branch, and out went Amani Oruwariye, Mike Hughes and eventually Jeff Okudah. Losing safety DeShon Elliott might hurt, but that’s the only black mark.

As Buday mentioned, the Lions new secondary pieces have to gel and that’s something which can’t be overlooked. But the biggest weakness on the team going into the offseason has been markedly improved, into one of the stronger units the team has on paper.

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