In the midst of the Detroit Lions’ OTAs, it’s clear an emphasis on creative defensive schemes has attracted the attention of local brass, not to mention the players. There seems to be a buzz around the defense that hasn’t happened really since Ndamukong Suh was drafted.
Outside of Suh, and maybe Chris Spielman, the Lions’ defense hasn’t had much to boast about since maybe the early 1950s, back when strict team rules required all defensive personnel to have the ability to tackle.
This season brings in new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. He’s worked on defenses that, at best, were good at one time or another. With the Baltimore Ravens over the last three seasons, Austin coached the secondary on a defense that won the Super Bowl, and then was likely the worst it has been since the Ravens became an NFL team.
A lot of that is about losing Ray Lewis, so I won’t hack at Austin too much. The Ravens’ secondary was still ranked 12th last season against the pass, and under Austin, it was ranked as high as fourth in 2011.
In his first few OTAs as a coordinator, he’s already showing that he wants to mix things up for the Lions: lots of different formations, pre-snap movements and adjustments, and an array of blitzes and coverage packages. It should be super fun for the players to get to do all this fancy stuff, but that’s about positioning, not actually making plays.
The bottom line is, outside of maybe DeAndre Levy, the playmakers on the defensive side have either been subpar to their potential, or blatantly non-existent.
It will be great to see the defense perhaps throwing off the opponent with varied looks, but the issue will still be the new coordinator’s ability to get the best out of each individual defensive player. The Lions need to improve on takeaways, and just flat out must have a defense that makes stops. The offense should be solid, but there are going to be games in the NFC North won by defense, and those are the ones that make or break a playoff run.
I just don’t see the Lions’ current personnel coming together for the kind of defense that changes games. Once again, the Lions will be facing a season where offense is the main focus, while the defense struggles to keep up.