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Problems on Defense

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I think it would be good to get a discussion going on where our problems on defense lie. I think we all had pretty high expectations for our defense this year, or at the very least, to be better than we are. We have given up a ton of points since the bye. Some of this can be blamed on the injuries but we were relatively healthy against teams like Chicago and Carolina so it cannot be blamed totally on injuries. A few thoughts:

-I have seen some discussion about Suh's play this year vs. last year. I have seen some people say he is facing a lot more double teams this year but he also faced a lot of double teams last year so I am not sure this is totally accurate. I do think the TFL and sack statistics tend to fluctuate more year to year with defensive tackles because of the nature of the position.

-Overall the defensive line has been a big disappointment for me. They make their fair share of plays but also have given up some big plays on screens and have been gashed by opposing running backs a lot. Their tackle numbers are down across the board, except with Avril. That is not a good sign.

-The secondary was suppose to be bad, gave us some hope in the pre-season and early in the regular season, and then has just gotten torched again lately. While I will admit there are times where it is easy to get enamored with Berry's potential, Smith's big play ability, and Houston's coverage skills, I think when you compare our talent level at corner to other teams, we are still severely lacking.

Thoughts?

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I think it would be good to get a discussion going on where our problems on defense lie. I think we all had pretty high expectations for our defense this year, or at the very least, to be better than we are. We have given up a ton of points since the bye. Some of this can be blamed on the injuries but we were relatively healthy against teams like Chicago and Carolina so it cannot be blamed totally on injuries. A few thoughts:

-I have seen some discussion about Suh's play this year vs. last year. I have seen some people say he is facing a lot more double teams this year but he also faced a lot of double teams last year so I am not sure this is totally accurate. I do think the TFL and sack statistics tend to fluctuate more year to year with defensive tackles because of the nature of the position.

-Overall the defensive line has been a big disappointment for me. They make their fair share of plays but also have given up some big plays on screens and have been gashed by opposing running backs a lot. Their tackle numbers are down across the board, except with Avril. That is not a good sign.

-The secondary was suppose to be bad, gave us some hope in the pre-season and early in the regular season, and then has just gotten torched again lately. While I will admit there are times where it is easy to get enamored with Berry's potential, Smith's big play ability, and Houston's coverage skills, I think when you compare our talent level at corner to other teams, we are still severely lacking.

Thoughts?

I agree that the d-line has underperformed. I don't know any of the stats, but just watching the games you can tell that the opposing QB has too much time considering the quality of DB we are putting out there (no offense to Houston or Wright, they are both decent, but obviously not top tier guys). I think the performance the d-line put on in the Monday Night game against the Bears should be what we see every week. Where has Corey Williams been this year? he's been injured recently, but isn't that why we got Fairley? -- he excited just about everyone in the 1st quarter of the Saints game. I dont see how there isnt more talk about his injury/lack of production this year. Is he >90% right now? if so, why isnt he playing every down? Am I missing something? Probably. Suh -- talk about a sophomore slump. I know he's getting double/triple teamed, but after 2 or 3 games last year I'd have to imagine he was being treated the same. He name was constantly being called last year and now you almost forget he's on the field unless he is stomping someone. Dont get me wrong the guy is a beast, but wtf is going on?

Anyways not to make a short story long, but we obviously have pretty good LB's and a pretty average secondary. That means the defensive performance hinges on our D-Line. I think that the numbers over the past 6 games or so go to show that they have underperformed.

I'm not trying to overreact, but we built this team around the d-line, and seeing a lot of these guys be non-factors week after week gets a bit worrisome. (not to mention the run defense)

argh

Edit: sloppiness

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I haven't researched this in a long time but as I recall defensive lines don't generally rack up a lot of tackles. From my recollection from my research of tackle totals by position stretching from 5 to about 10 years ago, the DL's job is to lock up the OL, rush the passer and give linebackers a clear shot at covering/tackling running backs. I think the DL generally achieved these objectives this year from what I observed.

It's hard to criticize the secondary and defensive line THAT much overall -- the passing defense was #8 in lowest opponent yards/attempt (6.8) and #12 in lowest opponent passer rating (82.1), were #10 in sacks (41) and #5 in INT (21). In virtually every defensive passing category they were better or at least on a par with Green Bay, New Orleans and New England.

The rushing defense was practically tied with 4 other teams (including New Orleans) for worst yds/att (5.0), and was 10th worst in total yards allowed. Interestingly, Green Bay (4.7) and New England (4.6) were also in the worst 10 here.

So the defense could be a whole lot better but frankly it was no worse statistically in 2011 than three of the better teams in football (Green Bay, New Orleans, New England).

I'd be inclined to blame the problem on the team's very low offensive rushing attempts (second-lowest at only 350) and low time-of-possession, but the Lions had a very small TOP advantage over the season and were middle-of-pack with Green Bay and other good teams there too.

So overall the team's talent/scheme was good enough to garner defensive stats/results commensurate with other passing-oriented 10+ win teams.

The one HUGE glaring problem area is PENALTIES -- there is not a breakdown between offense and defense available, but I would assume that the defense has been among the league's most-penalized. While there were some teams that were able to make the playoffs with above-average penalty totals, the three teams most comparable defensively otherwise above (New Orleans/Green Bay/New England) were in the upper-half in this area.

Penalties are obviously partially a reflection of talent differential -- if can't make the play, grab the guy. Taking a penalty can be a legitimate/deliberate tactic/strategy -- accordingly, yesterday it would have helped to slow GB's big-play offense down a little to clutch/grab the receivers more frequently, even if the cost would have been more penalties.

By the same token, it seemed to me that this year highlighted a lot of bone-headed defensive penalties. There's no stat for that, but to me the coaching staff has to emphasize cutting down on the extracurricular and other stupid stuff without taking the edge off.

Talent-wise, I would say that they could use at least one more playmaker in the linebacking corps, particularly a run-stopper. A shut-down corner would be nice, but obviously are very rare.

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I just wanted to point out it's unfair to blame the defense against Chicago. The Lions had two interceptions returned for TD, they had a punt returned for a TD, and they also had fumbles that set up Chicago near the red zone. The Bears had 219 yards of total offense. Cutler was 9 for 19 for 123 yards. Forte had 64 yards on 18 carries. The defense played great actually. Cutler and Forte had 0 TD. The Bears only had one offensive TD and that was by Marion Barber. 21 of the 37 points were scored on pick six and punt return. The Barber TD was set up by a fumble. The defense actually played great.

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....

I'd be inclined to blame the problem on the team's very low offensive rushing attempts (second-lowest at only 350) and low time-of-possession, but the Lions had a very small TOP advantage over the season and were middle-of-pack with Green Bay and other good teams there too.

So overall the team's talent/scheme was good enough to garner defensive stats/results commensurate with other passing-oriented 10+ win teams.

The one HUGE glaring problem area is PENALTIES -- there is not a breakdown between offense and defense available, but I would assume that the defense has been among the league's most-penalized. .

Admittedly haven't done the research either, but the impression from watching this year is that penalty wise the D is getting hit with a lot of PFs, so more a discipline than talent issue there. The O is getting hit with false start and holding, definitely talent issues. then there is Raiola - who has been getting procedure and PF calls - poor talent and poor discipline.....

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Don't forget about Pettigrew false starting more than enough on offense.

The Lions have relied on their D-Line too much lately.

No pressure by D-Line on opposing QB is clearly the main problem. To have a chance against New Orleans, they need to apply pressure often.

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I think it's worth noting that the Packers were throwing a lot towards Alphonso Smith. Chris Houston did fairly well. I think once or twice he got beat, but they weren't really go his way. It seems the pass defense started to slide when Delmas went out. The Lions are still solid in pass defense on the season. I think we may be getting worked up over one bad game. New England, Green Bay, and New Orleans are the three worst teams in pass defense.

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I haven't researched this in a long time but as I recall defensive lines don't generally rack up a lot of tackles. From my recollection from my research of tackle totals by position stretching from 5 to about 10 years ago, the DL's job is to lock up the OL, rush the passer and give linebackers a clear shot at covering/tackling running backs. I think the DL generally achieved these objectives this year from what I observed.

It's hard to criticize the secondary and defensive line THAT much overall -- the passing defense was #8 in lowest opponent yards/attempt (6.8) and #12 in lowest opponent passer rating (82.1), were #10 in sacks (41) and #5 in INT (21). In virtually every defensive passing category they were better or at least on a par with Green Bay, New Orleans and New England.

The rushing defense was practically tied with 4 other teams (including New Orleans) for worst yds/att (5.0), and was 10th worst in total yards allowed. Interestingly, Green Bay (4.7) and New England (4.6) were also in the worst 10 here.

So the defense could be a whole lot better but frankly it was no worse statistically in 2011 than three of the better teams in football (Green Bay, New Orleans, New England).

I'd be inclined to blame the problem on the team's very low offensive rushing attempts (second-lowest at only 350) and low time-of-possession, but the Lions had a very small TOP advantage over the season and were middle-of-pack with Green Bay and other good teams there too.

So overall the team's talent/scheme was good enough to garner defensive stats/results commensurate with other passing-oriented 10+ win teams.

The one HUGE glaring problem area is PENALTIES -- there is not a breakdown between offense and defense available, but I would assume that the defense has been among the league's most-penalized. While there were some teams that were able to make the playoffs with above-average penalty totals, the three teams most comparable defensively otherwise above (New Orleans/Green Bay/New England) were in the upper-half in this area.

Penalties are obviously partially a reflection of talent differential -- if can't make the play, grab the guy. Taking a penalty can be a legitimate/deliberate tactic/strategy -- accordingly, yesterday it would have helped to slow GB's big-play offense down a little to clutch/grab the receivers more frequently, even if the cost would have been more penalties.

By the same token, it seemed to me that this year highlighted a lot of bone-headed defensive penalties. There's no stat for that, but to me the coaching staff has to emphasize cutting down on the extracurricular and other stupid stuff without taking the edge off.

Talent-wise, I would say that they could use at least one more playmaker in the linebacking corps, particularly a run-stopper. A shut-down corner would be nice, but obviously are very rare.

Defensive lineman don't typically make a lot of tackles but there are some defensive lineman who have a knack for making a lot of tackles. KVB had 49 tackles in 11 games last year but had 35 in 16 games this year. He several years in Tennessee with over 60 tackles. That is a significant drop off. Suh also had significantly less tackles. So whether or not the majority of defensive lineman make a lot of tackles, I think we need and have a right to expect these to guys to make a lot of tackles because it is part of their games.

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Most of the advanced metrics point to the Lions having a good defense over the course of this year, down from one of the best after the first half. That, to me, points to injuries playing a role. I think the return of Louis Delmas will be huge this week.

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To beat the Saints, the D-line must be dominant. We need to see the Suh from last year, the Corey Williams from last year, the Avril from this year, and the Nick Fairley we saw against the Saints the first time around. Our DB's aren't good enough to cover long enough without the D-Line pressuring Brees all night. Think what teams do against the Pats in the playoffs. Pressure the hell out of Brady and frustrate him.

The D has been very serviceable for the entire season and has mostly been a bend but not break defense. They made big plays when the team needed it but they have also given up a lot of yards and points. The secondary has to be priority number one in the offseason.

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The secondary has to be priority number one in the offseason.

No question but I would put this as priority number three behind:

1. Signing CJ to hopefully a long term deal and if no deal then franchise tag him.

2. Signing Avril to a long term deal and if no deal then if franchise tag still available, franchise tag him.

3. Secondary needs upgrades

4. Offensive line needs upgrades based on horrible play and age. Hopefully Jason Fox can actually stay healthy and contribute on the line.

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Had the Lions signed Johnathan Joseph in the offseason, we'd probably be talking about a 12-4 Lions team. Of course, they'd still be only the 5th seed...but playing at the NY Giants on Sunday instead of New Orleans. And, I'd be feeling a lot more confident about their chances going forward (both against the Giants and Saints/Packers).

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If we were facing the Giants this Saturday I don't think we the same level of concern. The Saints are a huge step up and it is worriesome that they may torch the D. Gonna be real tired Saturday of hearing how GREAT Brees and TE Graham are.

As for DLine tackles. One thought I heard was our DLine is designed to take on the blockers and open up lanes for the LB to attack on run plays. If that is true it explains this. Also, when we line up the DE so wide and their main play seems to be a speed rush wide, we are suseptable to those gashing runs.

For me, I am underwhelmed by our pass rush lately. Seems very average. That it seems is the key to our pass D and that does concern me.

EDIT: And we dont blitz that much to create pressure.

But what do I know. Just a diehard fan hoping for the unlikely this Saturday.

Go Lions!

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