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How bad is the Detroit Lions secondary?

Addressing the recent criticism the Lions secondary has taken.

Philadelphia Eagles v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Lions secondary. At one point in time it was the one thing the Lions could be sure of. Now it’s a question mark. But are things all that bad? One NFL analyst seems to think so.

My pal Kenneth Arthur from Field Gulls and Sports On Earth recently ranked the secondary of all 32 NFL teams. Coming in at 32nd and dead last, was the Detroit Lions.

Kenneth cited the Lions having the worst pass defense DVOA in the league and made mention that he felt the Lions had done nothing to fix their issues and, instead, chose to remain the same.

Our own Jeremy Reisman spoke on this issue this past Wednesday in our daily notes piece. And Kent Lee Platte also explained in his own way how the Lions improved in this area on Thursday.

Today, I’d like to add my own two cents to this theory. What I would like to do is break it down into two sections. I want to see what made the Lions secondary bad in 2016, and what will make it bad in 2017. Conversely I want to see what made it good in 2016, and what will make it good in 2017.

You guys want the good or the bad first? I’ll start with bad.

The Bad

Last year, the 1-15 Cleveland Browns allowed 36 passing touchdowns, the most in the NFL. Just two touchdowns behind them is the Detroit Lions at 34.

When you allow the second-most touchdowns in any category, analysts reserve the right to say you’re the worst or close to the worst.

On top of that, the Lions made quarterbacks like Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and Brock Osweiler look like Y.A. Tittle when they played them.

Perhaps a lot of this has to do with the Lions lack of pass rush. The Lions had one of the worst—if not the very worst—pass rushing units in the NFL in 2016. When you give any quarterback the time the Lions allowed guys to have, it doesn’t matter how good your secondary may be.

Complicating this issue for the upcoming season is that the Lions didn’t appear to do much about their pass rush in the offseason. I’m not saying it will be bad again this year, but I’m saying it’s a giant mega-question mark.

The other potential issue the secondary faces is youth. Will they have growing pains all year or will they find their stride early?

The Good

Okay, here’s the good. Believe me, there’s some in there. For starters, while the Lions did finish second in the NFL for most touchdowns allowed, it didn't seem to reflect the full story about the Lions secondary.

For example, the Lions finished 14th in the league for passing yards allowed. They allowed 3,975 yards, if you were wondering. That’s better than the Green Bay Packers, if you’re into sour grapes.

The Lions also had Darius Slay finish in the upper half of the league in passes defensed. So that’s a good thing, too, but we already knew how good Darius Slay is. He’s the key to the second half of the article.

Darius Slay is why the Lions secondary can be better in 2017. When you have a corner as great as he is, teammates tend to try to mirror that, and Slay has new teammates that can do that now.

Teez Tabor is the first example. The Lions scored a first-round talent in the second round because he didn’t run fast in pajamas. That’s how fickle the NFL can be at times. They also picked up Jamal Agnew, DJ Hayden and former third-round pick Alex Carter will be joining the party for the first time in his career, but now as a safety, which I personally look forward to seeing in the preseason.

But it’s not just on the back end. Look for Ezekiel Ansah to bounce back after taking an L in 2016. The additions of Akeem Spence, Cornelius Washington and rookie Jeremiah Ledbetter will help the Lions in the pass rush department.

Jarrad Davis, Paul Worrilow, Tahir Whitehead and Miles Killebrew will be there for the backup at linebacker. Again, I don’t care what you have to say, Bob Quinn and Jim Caldwell, we all know what you’re going to do with Killebrew.


At the end of the day, what we come away with here is giant question marks. The Lions secondary can improve if this or that happens. And if this or that doesn’t happen, what happens to the Lions secondary? We shall see soon enough. As for what we know for certain now, the Lions can ill afford to test their luck on defense for a second straight season. Something must improve, otherwise the weight on the offense’s shoulders just got ten times heavier.

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