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Football Outsiders Q&A Part 4: Where does the Lions’ secondary rank in the NFL?

Is the Lions’ secondary good enough to carry the rest of the defense?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, Football Outsiders’ Assistant Editor Scott Kacsmar told us that if the Detroit Lions’ pass rush is lacking in 2018, they better have an elite secondary to compensate. It is extremely rare to sport an above-average defense if you aren’t creating consistent pressure on the quarterback, and the only way to survive is forcing a lot of interceptions with your defensive backs.

The Lions were able to do something like that last year. Darius Slay led the league in picks last year, and the Lions were able to finish the season tied for the fourth-most interceptions in the league.

But has the Lions’ secondary convinced Scott that they’re good enough to carry Detroit’s defense again this year? That’s today’s topic:

Question 4: Where would you rank this Lions secondary in respect to the rest of the league?

You might be able to squeeze them into the top 15 thanks to Darius Slay. Glover Quin usually charts well at safety. As we wrote in the book, the secondary may have relied too much on Slay last year. We need to see more from Teez Tabor in his second season, or perhaps one of the young safeties (Miles Killebrew or Tracy Walker) can start to break out more in this defense.

It may be hard for Lions fans to hear, but Kacsmar brings up a good point. Quarterbacks will soon learn—if they haven’t already—that targeting Darius Slay is a mistake. Who will the Lions rely upon to hold down the other side of the field? That Lions’ No. 2 cornerback camp battle has been one of the most publicized positional battles and for good reason. Right now, it appears Nevin Lawson holds the position, and his play has been average at best.

DeShawn Shead brings good competition (if he can stay healthy) and perhaps the growth of Teez Tabor could help inspire some improvement at CB2, but the team isn’t there yet, and opponents could take advantage of that.

I would’ve like to see Kacsmar mention Quandre Diggs, especially considering nickel cornerback has essentially become a starting position in the NFL. Diggs has taken everything the Lions have thrown at him and excelled. He’s easily the most underrated player on this team, and his versatility will make him a huge asset under Matt Patricia.

Therefore, I think top 15 is selling the Lions’ secondary a little short. Assuming good injury luck, there’s no reason this shouldn’t be a top 10 set of defensive backs.

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Tomorrow’s topic: Matthew Stafford with a running game