Easily the biggest mystery facing the Detroit Lions in 2018 is their defensive identity. Will they use a 4-3 base front? Will they go 3-4 the majority of the time? Where will Miles Killebrew or Quandre Diggs play? Why does Matt Patricia keep saying the word “multiple” and what does that really mean?
The Lions aren’t going to give us many answers to those questions, and there’s a good chance there aren’t any simple answers anyway, but defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni met with the media on Tuesday and gave at least a basic outline of what to expect from the defense this fall.
“(Our) defensive philosophy is to be smart, to be tough, and that means to be able to perform at a very dependable, high level on a consistent basis,” Pasqualoni said. “Like you’ve heard a hundred times, stop the run and try to make the quarterback uncomfortable.”
Okay, but how about some specifics here, Paul? We’re all grasping at straws, and we’ve all been fed these defensive cliches for years.
Thankfully, Pasqualino did drop a few hints, even though he remained purposely vague.
“Obviously we’ll have some four-man fronts and we’ll have some three-man fronts, and we’ll have a variety of stuff,” Pasqualoni said.
The new Lions defensive coordinator didn’t want to talk too much about scheme, because at this point in the offseason they aren’t really focused on teaching that to the players.
“It’s a very very good time of year for players to improve and to worry about technique,” Pasqualoni said. “We’re not so much worried about scheme. I think the scheme will, in the end, take care of itself. I think the issue right now is improving fundamentally and learning how to play technique.”
Pasqualoni did mention that second-year linebacker Jarrad Davis is going to play a key role in this defense in 2018.
“Jarrad Davis is a terrific—fits the job description of the Mike linebacker who essentially calls the defense and has a lot to do with the adjustments and directing his teammates,” Pasqualoni said. “It requires a whole lot of extra work on his part to know all the adjustments and to be able, when the signal caller messes a call up, he’s got to be able to straighten it out. So he’s got to learn the calls and the flow of the words and all that stuff.”
Davis’ rookie season had its ups and downs. After a rocky start, the Lions had to scale back his role on passing downs, taking him off the field for the majority of third downs throughout most of the second half of the season. However, the Lions slowly brought him along and Davis seemed to really shine in December. He was actually the fourth-highest graded linebacker in the league for the final six weeks of the season, per Pro Football Focus, and even regained his role as a three-down linebacker in Week 17.
And so far, Pasqualoni is impressed with where Davis is at right now.
“He’s working extremely, extremely hard, he’s very tough on himself, he demands a great deal of himself every single day, and he’s the same guy everyday,” Pasqualoni said. “He’s focused, he’s high-intensity, he’s consistent, he’s extremely dependable and he’s a young player who’s really learning what it’s all about to be the mack-back or the mike-backer in the National Football League. He’s been very good.”
So until we see more of the Lions on the field, that’s likely all we’re going to get from the team.