The Detroit Lions have 13 sacks through four games this season. That statistic paints a picture of a solid pass rush that’ll get to the opposing quarterback a handful of times per week. That has been anything but the case.
The Lions were generating absurd pressure in the first two weeks of the season, but came away with just a single sack, and that came on a fluke play by linebacker Alex Anzalone. Questions were forming as to what the missing piece was for the Lions’ defensive line. Weeks 3 and 4 answered those questions. The Lions defense burst onto the scene to the tune of seven and five sacks in their last two games, respectively, a stark turnaround from the first two weeks of the season. Can they keep it going against Bryce Young and Carolina?
Bold prediction of the week: Lions sackfest continues with 4+ sacks against Bryce Young
After the Lions’ Thursday Night Football win over the Packers, I hopped on the PODcast to chat with Chris Perfett and Ryan Mathews about what we were seeing out of a dominant Lions win. The conclusion we came to about the new life along the defensive line was not so much about a change to the Lions, so much as it was about a change to their opponents.
The Lions opened the season against two very mature quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes and Geno Smith. While Mahomes is notoriously elusive, Smith is very much a pocket passer. Regardless, the Lions found themselves just a second too slow getting to either of those quarterbacks.
In Weeks 3 and 4, the Lions defense found that extra second because they were playing relatively young quarterbacks who don’t yet have the processing speed of veteran quarterbacks. That bought the extra step necessary for the Lions to close on Jordan Love and Desmond Ridder, and it was like night and day for the pass rush unit.
We’ll see how that theory holds up this week against a very young, but very mobile quarterback in Bryce Young. He knows how to escape a crowded pocket as we saw at Alabama, but he’s not immune to pressure—Young has already taken 11 sacks in just three games this season. However, he’s a much more elusive than Love and Ridder and will pose a new test to a Lions defense, especially when you consider how much pressure has come from bigger, less agile interior linemen.
Young will be a good litmus test for the theory posed after the Thursday night win, and we’ll see whether Bryce Young’s feet can make up for his lack of experience at the speed of the NFL. I think it comes up just short, the Lions defense feasts again to the tune of four or more sacks Sunday.