It’s no surprise to Detroit Lions fans that the play of their front seven wasn’t up to snuff in 2018. While the sack numbers tell a different story (43, 11th most), all it takes is 10 minutes of tape watching to see that Detroit’s inability to create constant pressure was a big reason for their defensive problems, especially earlier in the year.
This week Pro Football Focus confirms those concerns. They ranked all 32 teams’ front seven players (defensive linemen and linebackers), and let’s just say the Lions didn’t grade out particularly well. According to the analytics website, the Lions front seven ranked second-to-last in NFL.
This is particularly disappointing when you consider how well the Lions interior defenders graded out for PFF:
Damon Harrison Sr. earned the 4th highest grade of any defender and a career high— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) January 3, 2019
All 3 DI ranked among the top 17 at the position
Walker and Hand ranked 1st and 3rd among rookie defenders
This obviously means that the Lions’ edge defenders and linebackers struggled in 2018, and that certainly passes the eye test. As PFF notes in their article, Da’Shawn Hand “was the only player in the entire front seven to have a pass-rushing grade over 75.0.”
Edge defender should undoubtedly be a high priority for this team in the offseason, while linebacker could be an underrated need. While Jarrad Davis and Devon Kennard are probably locked in for the foreseeable future, Detroit could use some more playmakers at the position, especially if Davis doesn’t progress further.
- Want to score Super Bowl ticket? The Lions are holding a drawing that ends this week with all proceeds for raffle tickets purchased ($100) going to the Detroit Public Schools Foundation. Enter here.
- Is Kerryon Johnson a better running back than LeGarrette Blount? Obviously, yes, but these statistics are damning proof:
Yards per carry is descriptive, but it's interesting to look at how running backs performed within the statistic versus their running back teammates. Here's a look at the top- and bottom-15 backs in "yards per carry difference" from 2018. pic.twitter.com/KxYLPFRtCf— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) January 9, 2019
- Lions Wire ranked the top 15 needs for the Lions roster in 2019.
- Speaking of Kerryon Johnson, do you miss watching him play football? Well, the Lions dropped their top 10 plays from the 2018 season on offense, and Johnson was responsible for three of them. Enjoy:
Top offensive plays from the #Lions' 2018 season. #OnePride pic.twitter.com/5UirbHDEfK— Detroit Lions (@Lions) January 9, 2019
- Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox thinks Florida State’s Brian Burns, who had 10.0 sacks this year, could help fix the Lions’ pass rushing problem and is a realistic option with the eighth overall pick.
- One positive note on the Lions’ 2018 defense: They certainly tackled a lot better than the previous year, which goes to general manager Bob Quinn’s point that the team got tougher this season:
The @Lions defense really improved in tackling this season— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) January 3, 2019
64.5 Tackling Grade (29th)
12.5% Missed Tackle percentage (11.1% NFL Avg.)
88.0 Tackling Grade (5th)
7.5% Missed Tackle percentage (11.5% NFL Avg.)#OnePride