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Discussion: What is the Lions’ greatest weakness right now?

The Detroit Lions have been a good team in 2023, but to be an elite team, they need to fix some mistakes. What is their greatest weakness right now?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

What went wrong for the Detroit Lions against the Baltimore Ravens? The answers to that question are numerous, so to summarize it: nearly everything.

Losing to a 5-2 Ravens team is far from shameful, as Lamar Jackson is playing at an elite level yet again while the defense is arguably the league’s best. But losing 38-6 in a game that was over from the initial drive? To lose a game in such fashion is a cause of concern at the very least, if not a wake up call for Detroit.

As of this writing, PFF grades are still pending, but it is unlikely than many players get a positive grade. Jack Fox had a good day punting in a game where field position mattered little to a sieve defense. Amon-Ra St. Brown again topped 100 yards, though his long was just 15 yards—he was peppered with 19 targets on a day Jared Goff threw the ball 53 times. Jahmyr Gibbs, starting in place of an injured David Montgomery, looked like the talented dynamic weapon he was billed as, yet a sizeable deficit meant his impact largely came when the game was wrapped up.

The bad moments were far more abundant. An off day from Goff and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson resulted in the offense sputtering. The offensive line was doing them few favors either, with Goff getting sacked five times on the day against a fierce Ravens pass rush. In the first half, the Lions failed to sustain a drive longer than three minutes—as you would expect, this resulted in zero first half points. Even when the Lions got something cooking in the second half, it felt moot because of the score.

There is no shortage of criticism towards the defense. The Lions failed to sack Lamar Jackson, their inconsistent streak of pass rush continuing. The Lions have 15 sacks on the season, but 12 of those can have come against the Atlanta Falcons (seven) and Green Bay Packers (five). That leaves a mere three sacks across five games, a less than stellar rate.

Elsewhere on defense, the secondary was hardly a speedbump for the Ravens. With the defensive line limiting Jackson as a runner (he finished with 36 yards, low by his standards), they dared him to challenge them through the air. Beat them he did, for Jackson finished with a near-perfect outing. Ravens pass catchers had significant cushions throughout the day—a Lions defender was rarely within 3 yards of the play, reflecting their zero pass breakups. Getting beat by Mark Andrews or Zay Flowers is one thing, but the Lions allowed running back Gus Edwards and fullback Patrick Ricard to snag receptions of 80 and 31 yards, respectively. Jerry Jacobs is not an All-Pro caliber cornerback by any means, but his absence proved critical. The defense seemed in total disarray on Sunday.

A loss is a loss, score aside. What we need to see is a rebound from the Lions. They got punched in the face, but this is far from a knockout. What problem do the Lions need to address the most right now?

Today’s Question of the Day is:

What is the Lions’ greatest weakness right now?

My answer: Their cornerbacks.

If the Lions want to be a team capable of going on a deep playoff run, they need improved play from their cornerbacks. Sure, Jerry Jacobs will return soon, if not next week. That alone will not alleviate the woes, however. With Emmanuel Moseley again suffering an ACL injury, the only reliable starters are Jacobs, Cam Sutton, and Brian Branch. Will Harris has his value, but asking him to be a CB2 is asking for trouble. The remainder of the roster is filled out by Khalil Dorsey and Steven Gilmore, two players with limited professional snaps on defense. Anthony Averett is on the practice squad and has starts under his belt, but he is far from a slam dunk upgrade.

The available solutions are mixed at best. The name on everyone’s mind is Patrick Surtain II of the Denver Broncos, but the cost would be high to pry away a young player Denver has little interest in moving. Jaylon Johnson is a pending free agent for the Chicago Bears, but they may be hesitant to trade a player of his caliber, even as a rental, to a divisional foe. Adoree’ Jackson of the New York Giants could be an option, but he is currently having a poor season. Available free agents include Desmond King, Kyle Fuller, and Casey Hayward, but like Averett, none of these veterans are quick fixes for the defense.

The Lions will likely have to improve their secondary from within. While that could mean giving a player like Gilmore a look, it more likely means cleaning up their mistakes. Talent may have been an issue on Sunday, but miscommunications only exacerbated the defensive woes. If the Lions can clean those up, they stand a decent shot of rebounding against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8.

Where does the Lions’ greatest weakness stand right now, and how can they go about fixing it? Let us know in the comments below.

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