The Detroit Lions wrapped up their preseason on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, finishing 1-2 overall after losing 19-9. Detroit’s overall record isn’t of any concern as they move into the games that matter, but surrendering just 19 points was reflective of an encouraging performance from Detroit’s first-string defenders.
Let’s take a closer look at Detroit’s efforts on defense according to the numbers supplied by Pro Football Focus.
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84.0 defense grade
If you rewind the clocks back one year, there wasn’t a bigger training camp darling than second-year cornerback Jeff Okudah. Okudah had struggled in his rookie season, rehabbing from core surgery in the offseason that stunted his growth and development early on, but he was ready to hit the ground running in his second season. He had developed into a leader in the secondary, bringing along undrafted free agent Jerry Jacobs in training camp.
All of that came to a screeching halt when Okudah injured his Achilles in Week 1, ending his sophomore season and all the promise the summer had brought with it.
Against the Steelers, Okudah showed why he was the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He was physical, recording a defensive stop when he tackled Najee Harris for a loss, and he showed his discipline and ability in coverage, breaking up a pass against George Pickens that could have been a touchdown. That 84.0 grade for Okudah, per PFF, is the highest grade Okudah has recorded as a Lion—and hopefully a sign of things to come.
John Cominsky has done just about everything he could have to make an impression on this coaching staff after the Lions claimed him off waivers. Detroit was one of eight teams who put in a claim for Cominsky, and given the situation at the Lions are in at the EDGE position, he seems like a player who will stick around.
Cominsky logged two quarterback pressures against the Steelers on Sunday, bringing his total to five this preseason. If Cominsky can keep up this kind of production, he can be counted on to be a rotational piece along Detroit’s defensive line.
78.6 run defense grade
One of the most encouraging developments over the course of the preseason has been the playmaking of Derrick Barnes. In his first bit of action against the Atlanta Falcons, Barnes was falling victim to some of the same mistakes from his rookie season. Taking the wrong angles, missing run fits and tackles, it wasn’t the best showing in his sophomore debut.
However, Barnes has now stacked two impressive games on top of one another. His run defense has been especially solid as of late and his 78.6 run defense grade by PFF was the highest by a Lions defender against the Steelers.