We won’t know for at least five or six months whether the Detroit Lions’ offseason moves paid off or not. There is certainly plenty of reasons for optimism. Detroit’s defensive roster certainly seems more talented and deeper—especially as it relates to the kind of player head coach Matt Patricia wants to lead his defense.
But there are certainly reasons to believe they could be in trouble again in 2019. First, they’re in a particularly difficult division. Additionally, there are some questions as to whether their offensive scheme change will hold right away.
Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport only seems to see the negative. In his latest from Monday, he listed the Lions as one of six teams “that blew this offseason.”
Normally, I’d welcome an opinion other than my own. As I said earlier on Monday, I think the Lions did a pretty darn good job (I gave them a B+ offseason grade), but I’m not naive enough to believe that I can tell the future.
Unfortunately, Davenport’s case isn’t very convincing. Here’s why he’s wrong.
His first criticism is of the Trey Flowers free agent signing. While there is some valid criticism to be had that Flowers was overpaid, Davenport’s rationale was the tired Those Sack Numbers Tho argument.
“But that’s a lot of salary-cap resources to tie up in a player who has never recorded more than 7.5 sacks in a season and has just 21 over four years,” he wrote.
Sack numbers are fickle and have always been a poor measure of impact. Sometimes disruption is enough. A pressure can lead to an incompletion or, even better, an interception. Sacks are good, and huge for a defense, but they aren’t the end-all statistic. The fact of the matter is that Flowers has been one of the most disruptive pass rushers over the past few years, and he’s a perfect fit—and leader—in this defense.
Adding in his postseason performance, Trey Flowers actually ranked 2nd among all edge defenders with 78 pressures last season. pic.twitter.com/NwdSb9Xomu— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 11, 2019
He’s also pretty good a defending the run, too.
Davenport’s next criticism with the Lions offseason was their draft. He didn’t like Detroit’s first-round selection of T.J. Hockenson. Not because he’s a bad player (he admits he “was easily the most pro-ready of this year’s prospect at the position”). Not because a tight ends aren’t worth a top-10 pick.
“But there were players at bigger areas of need available to the Lions at No. 8 overall, and the team’s recent history with Round 1 tight ends has been shaky.”
That’s just plain false. Tight end and right guard were the team’s two biggest needs going into the draft, and with no clear-cut No. 1 right guard prospects in the draft, you can’t really make the claim that there were better players at bigger positions of need at eight overall.
As for his second claim—that the Lions shouldn’t have drafted a tight end because the team’s history with first-round tight ends is poor—that’s just absurd. Hockenson was Bob Quinn’s only first-round draft pick spent on a tight end. He should not be held responsible for past GM’s mistakes. If you want to bring up his selection of Michael Roberts, that’s fair game, but that’s a completely different argument to make.
Lastly, Davenport brings up the second-round selection of Jahlani Tavai. I’m not going to argue against this one simply because I have no idea how this will work out. However, suggesting that because Lance Zierlein considered him a Day 3 pick means it was a reach is poor rationalization. You can question the pick all you want, but using media scouting as evidence of a poor choice is probably trusting amateur scouts a little too much.
But it’s May and everything over the next four months is pure speculation and guessing. Maybe Davenport turns out to be right. Maybe the Lions are picking in the top 10 again. However, if Detroit made mistakes this offseason, I highly doubt they are the ones he highlighted here.