The Detroit Lions have certainly turned a corner since the start of November. Usually when a team goes on a hot streak like the Lions are on right now, it’s easy to point at one unit and attribute the success to them. However, the Lions are clicking on every side of the ball right now. The offense is playing clean, creative football. The defense is bending without breaking and forcing turnovers. Special teams is contributing from every angle.
**deep breath**— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) December 20, 2022
Since Week 9, the Detroit Football Lions are....
4th in overall DVOA
7th in offensive DVOA
- 5th in pass O
- 16th in run O
10th in defensive DVOA
- 9th in pass D
- 9th in run D
Only the 49ers, Bengals and Bills have been better.
The Lions might as well be called the Pistons the way they are firing on all cylinders right now, which brings us to today’s question.
Question of the day: Which unit is Detroit’s weak link right now?
I think without a doubt it’s between the defense and special teams. The offense has been this team’s strength since Week 1, wavering only when missing several of its key pieces. Even against one of the league’s best defenses in the Jets, Ben Johnson is finding ways to scheme his best guys open and Jared Goff is taking care of the football.
On the defensive side, it’s hard to find too much fault right now. Since Aidan Hutchinson healed up from an early-season injury and John Cominsky returned to the lineup, the run defense has been as good as any. Isaiah Buggs has gone from roster bubble to core piece of this team, and the way he plays on the interior has freed up guys like Alex Anzalone to play some of his best ball of his Lions tenure.
Then there’s special teams, one of the few consistently reliable fixtures of Lions football. They’re contributing in new ways every week, currently with Kalif Raymond playing like one of the best punt returners in the league and maintaining a strong coverage unit led by guys like Josh Woods. However, they’ve struggled in the more ordinary contributions from special teams—Scott Daly has been a rollercoaster experience this season, and while Michael Badgley has been reliable, he is limited in range compared to Lions kickers of past. Even Jack Fox, while still playing like an above average punter, has not consistently been the open-field weapon we’re used to.
My answer: At the end of the day, I think the defense remains this team’s weak point. I use the term weak very relatively, as they’ve really stepped up their play and it’s hard to fault them to any significant extent. However, weeks like this past one against the New York Jets are a reminder that they’re still lacking talent on the back end. They need depth at cornerback and are missing Tracy Walker as a complementary piece to Kerby Joseph, and it results in guys like the recently-benched Zach Wilson putting on a performance that almost initiated flashbacks of Matt Flynn.
While the Lions certainly have holes to fill on the roster, it’s hard to complain about any one side of the ball. This coaching staff is milking every ounce of talent out of their players, and it has led to the Lions playing the most complete football we’ve seen since at least 2014. A question like this really puts into perspective how much this team has turned a corner and how well they’re set up for the future.
What do you think? Am I being too harsh on the defense? Is special teams the weak link on this team right now? Let us know your thoughts below.