Philosophy: Pressure the QB. With a quick strike high scoring offense forcing their opponents to throw more, they are built to attack up front with speed in the back seven. Teams that can't keep up get blown out (KC, DEN). The front four must apply pressure, otherwise good teams can pick the secondary apart.
Draft History: A Schwartz team has used their top selection on a DB 4 times, on a DL 4 times, and a LB once. It is a very impressive list including J. Kearse, K. Bulluck, A. Haynesworth, and N. Suh. Excluding N. Fairley, only 1 of the other 8 players didn't become a starter.
With 10 of 11 starters returning the defense should improve with a full off season of work. They showed improvement last year after adding some talent at LB. After giving up some long runs early in the year, they got better as the season progressed. The opposite happened in their pass defense, they started strong early in the season then faded badly by the end. At first glance it would seem that injuries were the main issue, but I think it was a pass rush that failed to apply consistent pressure allowing the secondary to get torched. In four games against GB and NO, C. Avril and K. Vanden Bosch combined for 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks. C. Williams had 0.5 sacks playing in 3 of those games. The DL needs more production if the Lions are going to beat the top teams. Drafting a pass rusher seems to be on the agenda, maybe even in round 1.
The starting safety spots are also likely locked up for this year. The Lions have shown very little interest in bringing in another young player to compete here. L. Delmas and A. Spievey are still young developing players. With aging players elsewhere on the roster, it doesn't seem logical to draft another young safety. They are much more likely to bring in a veteran if they are looking to upgrade here. The CB is the only position not returning a starter from last year. As Schwartz has said, CB's are injured more than any other position. It is clear that he values depth here. As it stands now, A. Berry, A. Smith, and J. Lacey will compete for the open starting spot. They all have starting experience in the league, and any rookie coming in could have a hard time passing all 3 and earning this spot. The Lions actions have indicated that they will draft a CB this year. They have brought in several for visits, ranging from 1st round talent to mid to late picks. Schwartz and Gunther have stated several times that it takes 3ish years to develop as a corner in this league, and M. Mayhew has said that this draft is deep at corner. It doesn't seem like they will spend a top pick on a CB, unless that player has a chance at starting on day 1. I think they really like D. Kirkpatrick. Mayhew even made a visit to Alabama's pro day. He seems to be what they are looking for in a physical press corner who is a strong tackler. If he slides don't be surprised if they trade up to get him.