clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Notes: The Detroit Lions are finally blitzing more

It still didn’t seem to work, though.

NFL: SEP 13 Bears at Lions Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A running joke among Lions fans is that the Lions refuse to blitz and rush with just three players too often. Of course it it not true that the Lions never blitz and it is dishonest to act like the Lions only ever rush the passer with fewer than even the standard four-man package, but like all exaggerations there is at least a bit of truth where this is all flowing from. Last season, the Lions clearly rushed the passer with fewer players on average than most teams and they had horrific pass rush failure rates.

In the offseason, the team brought in a new defensive coordinator and supposedly handed the play-calling duties over to him. While the outcome on the scoreboard was a disaster in Week 1, for those who wanted to see the defense take risks to apply pressure, there are hints that at least the play-calling philosophy in passing situations may have changed in 2020.

Now, just because you actually send more bodies at the quarterback, that does not necessarily mean they will get home and put the target on the ground. According to data posted by ESPN’s Seth Walder, pass rush win rate data placed the Lions near the bottom of the heap in terms of effectiveness. As a reminder, the pass rush win rate is a location-based measure that checks to see if a pass-rusher’s physical location on the field is past the blocker who appears to be assigned to them after 2.5 seconds. So, on actual dropbacks, Lions pass rushers made it past their blockers in less than 2.5 seconds only about a third of the time (that’s bad).

What we do not know from this level of aggregated data is whether or not frequent blitzing made a difference. After all, it is possible that the Lions could have won pass rush confrontations even less than the relatively sad rate they actually ended up with. Mitchell Trubisky is not exactly what you call a savvy veteran when it comes to dealing with the blitz:

Okay, so the Lions were blitzing more often than they had in the past and had reason to believe they were facing a quarterback who would struggle to throw to his left (but possibly also his right) in the face of a pass rush. In light of the fourth-quarter collapse that surrendered three touchdowns and a slew of big plays, was it because the defense stopped sending extra rushers? Nope:

As our own Mansur Shaheen pointed out immediately after the game, by the time the last period rolled around, the team was putting special teams players on the field to play cornerback. Lacking big free agent signing Desmond Trufant, their best returning cornerback from last season Justin Coleman and their top draft pick in 2020 Jeff Okudah all due to injuries, the coverage was simply overmatched.

We only have one game’s worth of data, so it is still too early to know whether the Lions are actually going to keep blitzing more often than they did in the last two seasons or if more blitzing is even going to make a difference. It did not do enough to help them win the game last week, but this is something worth keeping an eye on for the next few games. Now let’s move on to the rest of today’s Notes:

  • Mike O’Hara is not pleased with the disrespect towards former Lion Dre Bly:

  • Many Lions greats wore jersey number 20, and not all were running backs (hat tip to @BenjaminSRaven for drawing our attention to this tweet):

Naturally, some were running backs.