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Mailbag: Will the Detroit Lions improve their pass rush in 2nd half of season?

The Detroit Lions sack numbers are considerably lagging behind. What can they do to improve in the second half of the season?

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Detroit Lions pass rush has been very streaky all season. In games against the Falcons, Packers, and Raiders, they have 18 total sacks. In the remaining other five games, they have a total of just three. And while their pressure numbers are high, the time it’s taking to get those pressures is one of the longest in the league. This is reflected in the team’s Pass Rush Win Rate—a stat created by ESPN that measures the percentage of plays in which a team generates a pressure “win” in the first 2.5 seconds of the play. The Lions rank 25th in that metric.

This was also detailed by The Athletic’s Lions beat writer Colton Pouncy during the October 26 episode of his “One of These Years” podcast.

“I was looking at some TruMedia numbers: Average time to pressure among defensive fronts, the Lions have the fourth-slowest average time to pressure at 2.65 seconds,” Pouncy said. “Quarterbacks opponents’ average time to throw, the Lions have allowed the second longest time to throw at 2.99 seconds. And then average time to sack, the Lions have the slowest average time to sack in the NFL at 4.17 seconds.”

In other words, the Lions are simply giving opposing quarterbacks too much time, even if pressure is eventually getting there.

So will the Lions come out and change their strategy in the second half of the season? This was one of the topics discussed on this week’s midweek mailbag podcast. Here’s part of that conversation.

Jeremy: “I think the Lions need to reimagine their pass rushing overall strategy. We’ve talked plenty about when they’re facing these mobile quarterbacks—and they’re going to continue to face mobile quarterbacks in the second half of the season—they’ve been all about contain. ‘Let’s not lose our rushing lanes, let’s not allow quarterbacks to get out of the pocket and either create more time or gain yards with their legs.’ They’re not going to stray too far from that. That’s a core tenet of what they want to do. But at the same time, I think they also know that they can’t let the quarterback just sit in the pocket for six seconds and find someone wide open. I don’t know if they’ve got the guys on the backend to (defend) that with all the injuries they’ve had back there. So fundamentally speaking, I think they’re going to try to find new ways to generate pressure.”

Erik: “I might tweak what you’re saying and have it more be about finishing because they have generated 177 pressures. So let’s use the Chargers as an example for perspective. The Chargers have 170, so they have seven less pressures than the Lions through eight games, but they have 31 sacks and the Lions have 21. They’re second in the league because they’re finding ways to finish. I think that’s the thing that’s really holding (the Lions) back. 177 pressures, 21 sacks. That could be higher, it should be higher. You could point at individuals, but I think the schematic approach to the mobile quarterback situation has really hindered them, because half of their games, it felt like, were against mobile quarterbacks in the first half. So they were constantly playing contain instead of attack. This week I think they’re going to get to attack.”

Other topics on this week’s show:

  • (2:15) Should the Lions deploy chip blocks against the Los Angeles Chargers?
  • (6:30) Where could we see a big improvement in the second half of the season?
  • (13:35) Where do the Lions rank in blitz percentage, and could that change?
  • (18:10) What is the plan moving forward with Brodric Martin?
  • (25:25) Should Derrick Barnes get more play as the SAM linebacker and Jack Campbell more at MIKE?
  • (29:35) Are we going to get more two-back sets with David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs?
  • (34:00) Ways to get Jameson Williams the ball more effectively

Check out the entire podcast below.

You can also catch the video portion of these podcasts—which include a bunch of between-segments questions and Movember shenanigans—over on YouTube or Twitch.

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