Bolstered Detroit Lions defensive line gets very lofty ranking from Pro Football Focus

The Lions have added good pieces to their defensive line, but PFF's ranking still lands as surprising.
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

It's well-known how much the Lions lacked pass rush outside of Aidan Hutchinson and Alim McNeill last season. Moves were made to fix that this offseason, with defensive tackle DJ Reader and edge rusher Marcus Davenport added in free agency. Rookie sixth-round pick defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo is an interesting player as well.

Pro Football Focus loves McNeill coming off his breakthrough last year. They also liked the addition of Reader, and they named McNeill and Reader the best defensive tackle duo in the league. The Lions were already one of the best run defenses in the league last year, and they could be even better this year with Reader joining McNeill on the interior defensive line.

There are some question marks on the Lions' defensive front. Can Davenport stay healthy? Will Josh Paschal stay healthy and emerge in his third season? Can James Houston evolve into more than a pass rush specialist?

Lions' defensive line gets lofty ranking from PFF

As PFF rolls through their positional rankings heading into the season, defensive line was on the slate Tuesday. Sam Monson put the Lions at No. 4...

"For a while, the Lions had Aidan Hutchinson and not much else along the defensive line. Now, they will deploy D.J. Reader and an improved Alim McNeill along with Marcus Davenport on his latest prove-it deal. This is unquestionably the best group the Lions have had around Hutchinson, who himself racked up 101 quarterback pressures last season on his way to a 91.2 PFF pass-rushing grade.”

McNeill and Reader both had a top-15 PFF pass rush grade among defensive tackles last year, and top-25 overall pass rush grades. Prior to last year, Davenport posted a pass rush grade over 73 in four straight seasons.

The Lions made a quite a jump in PFF's defensive line rankings year over year, from 20th last year. Time will tell if the bolstered talent level around Hutchinson and McNeill yields results deserving of the top-five ranking, but there is ample reason to be optimistic.


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