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Monday open thread: Will the Detroit Lions be better on offense or defense in 2021?

After a lowly 2020, which side of the ball will be better in 2021?

Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

I have a yearly tradition of asking this question, and the 2021 edition could be a very interesting one.

In 2019, 86 percent of voters thought the Detroit Lions defense would be superior to the offense. Unfortunately, the good play the Lions saw after acquiring Damon Harrison did not translate to 2019, and it led to the defense disappointing—although the offense wasn’t that impressive either.

Come 2020, the opinions had vastly changed, with 91 percent of votes leaning towards the offense being better than the defense. This time around, the voters were right, and that 91 percent is on point with how different both units were. The Lions offense was middle of the pack—16th in offensive DVOA—but the defense was horrendous. The defense was the 32nd defense per DVOA, and you could tell every week.

A historically bad defense led to a purge of the coaching staff. Matt Patricia, the mastermind behind said defense, was relieved of his duties, and many of the coaches and players tied to him have also departed. Aaron Glenn arrives from the New Orleans Saints to take over the defense. It will be a tough task for him to not only evaluate the talent, but create a scheme to get the best of their once struggling players.

The offense, as well, is significantly different from 2020. The change of Darrell Bevell to Anthony Lynn should be a notable difference at offensive coordinator, but the transaction that will define the Lions offense will be the Matthew Stafford trade. In years past, the reason for people being optimistic about the offense was Stafford. In his stead this year will be Jared Goff, and he remains a mystery. Is he a stop-gap? Can he rekindle his early career success? A lot of questions will be answered as the season kicks off. Add in a reworked wide receiver group, and regression is a strong possibility for the offense.

It seems like the offense took a step back and the defense took a step forward. However, which of those units will be better next season?

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Will the Detroit Lions be better on offense or defense in 2021?

My answer: I think the defense will be better.

The offensive line and running backs look very promising, but I expect the Lions to struggle in the passing game. Even with a great wide receiver duo of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, Goff struggled in Los Angeles when he was asked to be the focal point of the offense. Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman are a massive step down from the targets he had with the Los Angeles Rams. Goff had his best years when the Rams had an incredible rushing attack, and it will be a tough task for D’Andre Swift to replicate the incredible years Todd Gurley had. To me, good receivers and a reliable run game are the success conditions for Goff, and Detroit doesn’t have both of those yet.

The defense can only go up, right? I have said it many times, but I strongly believe that the change from a Matt Patricia-led scheme to one organized by Aaron Glenn will have a greater impact than any free agent or draft pick would have. The Lions have some talent on defense, but the question remains if the players were underperforming or if the coaching was the blame. The truth is likely a combination of both, but I have more optimism about the defense than I’ve had in years.

I don’t expect either unit to be among the best in the league—even average would be a victory. There are pieces to build a far better team down the road, so even if 2021 isn’t a success, it will be laying the ground for seasons to come. That being said, I give the Lions defense a slight edge over their offense.

Your turn.

Poll

Will the Lions have a better offense or defense in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Offense
    (309 votes)
  • 51%
    Defense
    (331 votes)
640 votes total Vote Now