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Detroit Lions mailbag: How likely is a defensive turnaround out of the bye?

The Detroit Lions say they’ve made some progress and have ‘some clarity’ on the defensive side of the ball. Are you buying it?

Cincinnati Bengals v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Last week, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn tried to rally the defensive troops after letting up 48 points against the Seattle Seahawks (with some help from a Jared Goff pick-six). Glenn pointed to the 2021 Kansas City Chiefs—who went from one of the worst defenses in the first five weeks of the season to one of the best down the stretch.

“At some point, this thing’s going to change,” Glenn said. “But you’ve got to have the mindset, you’ve got to have the guys, you’ve got to have the coaches that’s able to do that.

The Lions responded by making a ton of personnel changes on defense against the New England Patriots to mixed results. Via the stat sheet, it doesn’t look like there was a ton of improvement. Patriots running back set a personal best 161 rushing yards on just 25 carries, and rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe completed over 80 percent of his passes for 9.0 yards per attempt—in his first start, no less.

But dig a little deeper, and there was some progress. The Lions forced field goals on all four of the Patriots’ red zone trips. New England was just 3-of-9 on third downs. And Detroit got some promising performances out of young players like Aidan Hutchinson and Kerby Joseph.

“Watching the tape, defense played much better,” coach Dan Campbell said on Monday. “I feel like we stopped the bleeding from what we’ve been going through the last couple of weeks.”

Later adding:

“I like where our defense is headed now because I think we’ve got some clarity on some things, and I know how we need to proceed moving forward.”

On this week’s mailbag podcast, with myself and Erik Schlitt, we ask ourselves whether we buy Detroit’s shot at a defensive turnaround.

  • Does a mildly better defensive performance against a mediocre-to-bad Patriots offense really move the needle?
  • Did the Lions actually figure things out?
  • Can they manufacture a defensive turnaround like they did with the offense last year?
  • Are there any capable players coming back from injury that could make a significant difference?

We answer all those questions and more in this week’s mailbag. Check it out:

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