Posted on: April 14, 2010 4:01 pm

More Rush Defence & the draft

Just over a week to go before the NFL draft and it's still unclear what the Lions will do with their #2 overall pick.  But their options are really down to three things:

  1. Trade down
  2. Draft Ndomikong Suh
  3. Draft a LT (Russell Okung or Trent Williams being the likely candidates)
Option 1 holds the most allure to the Lions, because they could potentially still get a solid OT or defensive lineman with their new pick.

Option 2 is what might happen, for a number of reasons but the balance needs to be struck between:
  • How many snaps is a DT drafted that high going to play? This boils down to whether you're convinced that Suh can play the undertackle/3-technique on run downs and nose tackle/1-technique on passing downs, while being effective at both positions?
  • Is the DT a fit for the Lions scheme. I'd argue Gerard McCoy is not a fit because he's more of a one-gap penetrating tackle who fits better in a traditional 4-3. But the Lions run a 4-3 that operates on 3-4 principles where your DTs have to eat up blockers and try to collapse lanes. This would mean that your two-gap tackles are likely to be a better schematic fit, meaning players like Suh (or if they trade back Dan Williams) should be the targets.
  • Are you convinced that Suh's knees are healthy (2 surgeries - one for meniscus tear as a freshman, one that was precautionary)?
  • Does this improve the talent on the roster enough to justify the pick?
This last point is worth breaking down further.  The Lions have the following players on the current defensive line at each position (based on what the media has been told):

LDE Jason Hunter, Jared Devries, (Cliff Avril), (Andre Fluellen)
3DT Corey Williams, Andre Fluellen, Joe Cohen
1DT Sammie Hill, (Corey Williams), Landon Cohen, Terrence Taylor
RDE Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Turk McBride, Copeland Bryan

In contrast to last year this would mean they've got options and talent for their scheme (ex. White wasn't a good fit to set the edge of the pocket for the run game or QB scrambles, whereas Vanden Bosch should be). Personally I think improving upon the bottom of their game day rotation (Fluellen or MCBride) with a top-rung impact player that can help them to hold the line of attack and really open up the LBs is a solid option. This would go further to solidify their run defense further and help to keep their secondary out of as much trouble as they had last year when no opposing QB worried about being able to step up in the pocket.

Of course, the fall back plan is Option 3 - which is what will happen if they aren't convinced that a DT is right for them.  Ideally this would provide them with:
  • An excellent pass-blocking young tackle
  • Options at LT (Backus vs rookie), RT (Cherilus vs Backus), and LG (Backus vs Sims vs Loper)
  • More stability on offense, which is statistically more consistant from year to year.
  • Less of a money issue as OT is already a premium money position
All three will help the Lions, and the 2010 Lions will already be better then the 2009 or 2008 Lions without any of these three options - so I can't wait to find out what they end up doing.
Category: NFL Draft
Posted on: December 11, 2009 11:32 am

Rush defence in Detroit

Last season the Lions were the worst team in the league agaisnt the run in virtually every statistical category - this season they rank 19th.  And there are signs that this improvement is starting to play dividends. But from the underlying stats it's easy to say that there are still specific areas that need work.

For reference they are rated 19th in the league in run defense with 113.4 yards per game (32nd, 172.1 ypg for 2008)

One of the first things that sticks out to me is that the Lions are pretty consistent in their ranking of what goes into a good run defence. They are:

  • 14th in the league with 19.9% of runs against leading to a first down of (32nd, 27.4% for 2008)
  • 15th in the league in rushing touchdowns against with 9 (projects to 12 total rushing TDs in 2009 verses 32nd, 31 in 2008)
  • 12th in per carry average against with opposing backs carrying for 4.1 yards per carry (32nd, 5.1 ypc in 2008)

The one place where they're weakest is in explosive runs - which are those runs where the secondary has to step in and make a tackle (and we all know how good the secondary is at run support). In 2009 they're ranked 29th in explosive runs with 13 runs over 20 yards, including 2 runs over 40 yards. By comparison though this too is a significant improvement as they allowed 26 20+ yard runs and 5 40+ yard runs a year ago.


So what does this all mean? It means that the Lions defense is better then last year when it comes to the running game... and worse against the pass. But it means hope - because the Lions clearly have solved some of their long term issues in the middle of the defence with 5 quality LBs (Ernie Sims, DeAndre Levy, Larry Foote, Jordon Dizon and Julian Peterson) all contributing and a young FS/DT combo in Louis Delmas and Sammie Lee Hill that helps to solidify the centre of the field (clearly the Lions on defence are building from the middle out, rather then from the trenches back - but both are quality ways of building a strong defence).

Going forward into the draft and 2010 offseason it gives them a view of what must be done: they need a CB that can keep Will James as the nickelback, they need the other half of their DT team and they need an edge rusher. Those have to be their priorities because they don't have the pieces on their roster right now to even potentially fix those issues (they do have potential solutions at SS in Ko Simpson, Marvin White, Daniel Bullocks, etc even though none of these young players have seized the role). Anything more is a bonus....

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