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....