I had actually intended this to be an analysis on why all the Bears fans are silly to insist that their wide receiver core is better than ours but while spending time on Football Outsiders I started looking at their advance states for the Defensive Line. Some of the material was a bit of a surprise to me and went against what I suspected, while others seemed to support the narrative that we are all familiar with.
The next statistic was running back yards, which is just the yard per a carry against the defense. Detroit gave up an astounding 4.62 Y/C, good enough for the bottom forth in the league. When we take the overall 4.62Y/C with the 4.01ALY we see an indictment of the back seven here. When the yard per carry is higher than the ALY this means that once the running backs are getting past the line they keep going resulting in longer gains. Detroit had the fifth worst difference between the two values in the league last year. We all knew last year that one of the Lions weaknesses was allowing for long rushing gains and that seems to be barred out here. If we want to compare Detroit's difference to the other teams who had similar ALY we see that PIT and BAL actually had negative differences between ALY and Y/C because their linebackers were so active in the run, though to be fair that does unfairly favor 3-4 defenses because their outside linebackers tend to bear down and play like lineman a lot.
The next two advanced statistics for the line go together Power Success% and Stuffed%. Power Success% is the percent of stops on third or forth down and less than two and Stuffed% is the percentage of run plays that resulted in tackles for loss or no gain. We did amazingly well in Power Success% where we were 5th in the league with the opposing offense succeeding 52% of the time. This makes complete sense when we think back to last year when we would roll out the DL of Flu and Suh at DE's and SLH and Corey Williams at DT, and that jumbo package held quiet well against those short yardage runs. On the other side the overall Stuffed% came in at 20%. That means 20% of the time there was a tackle for a loss or no gain when the opposing offense rushed against the Lions. When considering that the Bears were the best in the league with 26% stuffs I think we can say that we were pretty good but could improve.
The next statistics I want to focus on is the ALY for given portions of the field. The first and most surprising to me was that for the left outside the Lions were the number one team in the league for ALY, with at ALY of 2.22. This is the area outside of the right defensive end and therefore would be DeAndre Levy's responsibility in the situation where he would be coming down by the line. I had actually not been impressed with Levy's run defense last year but this seems to suggest that he was very good at the point of attack. On the other hand my perception about KVB being week against the run was bore out with the Lions giving a whoping 4.74 ALY or 28th in the league. Now Avril on the other hand managed a 4.42 ALY or 19th in the league for left defensive ends. It is important to point out here, that this is just not on these individual players that I have pointed out because it goes for that side of the line. So in some of these cases KVB might have been charged with the far left outside or that Avril might have been charged with the far right outside, which happened to be 30th in the league, or Young or Lojack could have been in the game. For the most part though KVB and Avril were the primary players for these positions and bear the majority of the responsibility. The thought occurred to me that maybe this weakness is inherit to the wide 9? So I wanted to take a look at the one other team in the NFL that runs the wide 9 on the majority of their snaps. The Eagles had a 3.64 ALY, 7th in the league and 4.17ALY, 16th in the league for the right end and left ends respectively. So when we compare them to the Eagles we see that the Eagles were average to above average so it was not just the wide 9 technique.
So now that I have covered the DE position I am sure everyone is wondering how the center of the line performed. With the narrative from last year being primarily about how poor Suh played against the run it may be a slight surprise that the center of the line was 7th in the league with a 3.69ALY. This is an indication that the DT's and Tolluch did a good job against runs up the middle. I found that Tolluch actually seems to the be player who made the most difference because the year before the middle of the line ranked 28th in this same category but with his presence behind the tackles last year we were much better.
Now the last part of the Defensive Line is the most publicized, the pass rush. From watching the games last year I felt that the team did not get as much pressure as they had the year before. This was shown through the Football Outsiders stat, adjusted sack rate which is the percentage of sacks per pass attempt which was then normalized. The Lions came in 6th in 2010 with a sack rate of 7.7% but in 2011 they were 18th with a sack rate of 6.5%. That's quiet a drop off but when we consider that Philly and the Gmen were the only teams to be ranked in the top ten both years we can see just how easily this statistic fluctuates. So while the team did have a drop off in sacks and sack percentage that might not mean the overall pressure was not there because this statistic ignores QB hurries.
So in conclusion we can look back at last year and feel that for the most part the Dline was better against the run than we thought. What seemed to be the big killer was when players got passed the line and into the open field. Instead of the runners begin taken down for a 6 or 7 yard game they were being brought down for long gains. We can also tell that we are good when the opponents are on 3rd or forth and short and readily able to stop those. Looking out to the next year I think its safe to say we are still going be able to stuff the shorts and probably still be pretty good up the middle. The biggest questions are if we can improve in the run game from the end positions?