Intentionally or not, Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes has prioritized the defensive line in his first two NFL Drafts. In 2021, he nabbed both defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike and nose tackle Alim McNeill on Day 2 of the draft. Just a couple months ago, Holmes doubled up on edge threats, first taking Aidan Hutchinson with the second overall pick and then picking Kentucky’s inspirational defender Josh Paschal just a round later.
In 2020—the year before Holmes took over—the defensive line looked like this:
- Trey Flowers
- Romeo Okwara
- Da’Shawn Hand
- Nick Williams
- Danny Shelton
- John Penisini
Of that group, only Romeo Okwara remains in 2022:
- Romeo Okwara
- Alim McNeill
- Michael Brockers
- Charles Harris
- Levi Onwuzurike
- Aidan Hutchinson
- Josh Paschal
The defensive line certainly needed the overhaul. For years now, the Lions have struggled to rush the passer, allowing opposing defenses to just carve up the secondary with little resistance. As Lions Wire pointed out this week, the Lions' defense has allowed at least the sixth-highest passer rating in each of the past four seasons.
A big reason for that is the lack of pass rush. Here’s a look at their sack and pressure numbers over the past four years.
2021: 30 sacks (30th), 124 pressures (t-29th)
2020: 24 sacks (26th), 105 pressures (32nd)
2019: 28 sacks (t-29th), 124 pressures (28th)
2018: 43 sacks (11th), 125 pressures (30th)
Even in the one year the Lions managed to get a lot of sacks, they pressured the quarterback on a very small percentage of plays. This has been a long-standing problem the previous regime just could not figure out.
But how much change can be expected in one season? Today’s Question of the Day is:
Where will the Lions rank in sacks and pressure for the 2022 season?
My answer: There is not really a scientific way to predict this. But if you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic, look no further than the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals. Of course, that Bengals team will be used for years as the model of a big one-year turnaround, going from 4-11-1 the previous year to minutes away from winning the Super Bowl the next season.
But looking specifically at their defensive line, you can see a similar strategy to the Lions’. In 2020, the Bengals got a cornerstone piece of the defense with D.J. Reader in the middle. And then in 2021, they invested in their defensive front again through free agency. They signed Trey Hendrickson to a four-year, $60 million deal and added an interior threat with Larry Ogunjobi.
As a result, the Bengals went from 111 pressures (31st) and 17 sacks (32nd) to 170 pressures (seventh) and 42 sacks (12th).
The Lions’ situation is significantly different in that Detroit mostly used the NFL Draft to improve their defensive front. Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect Detroit’s improvement to be a little more gradual than the Bengals. Still, Cincinnati provides an example of the obvious: investment in the defensive line pays off.
I expect the Lions to rank around the 16-20 range in pressures and sacks in 2022.
Where will the Lions rank in sacks/pressures in 2022?
This poll is closed