As Awful As the Lions Secondary Has Been, Their Defensive Line Has Been Their Undoing

December 1, 2009 on 9:26 am | In Uncategorized | No Comments

The Lions secondary has been exposed for it’s devastating lack of talent, week-after-week, for several years now. This season has been no different. My immediate impulse is to hold the secondary accountable for it’s considerable failings, but as Tom “Killer” Kowalski touches upon today, it’s actually the failure of the Lions front four, to generate a pass rush, which forces the Lions defense to have to call upon too many blitzes. Their inability to capitalize on those blitzes stimulates comments like these, by Chad Ochocinco:

“Now, next week, things are going to have to change,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “The roles need to be reversed. I’m speaking on behalf of myself and the receiving corps. We would like to throw the ball 50 times. I just want to relay that message.”

The Lions defense have only 18 sacks in 11 games, which is far from adequate. Given the high number of blitzes (40% to 50% of defensive plays), the Lions need to at least hurry opposing Qb’s into audibles, “check downs”, or into making a poor pass, which hasn’t hapened, either. Here are Jim Schwartz’s comments on that situation:

“We haven’t been able to get good pressure on the quarterback. We’ve had to blitz quite a lot,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. “You saw circumstances there where Gun dialed up good blitzes because we had guys running totally free toward the quarterback but he got rid of the ball.

“Most of the time when you’re blitzing, you’re not blitzing to sack the quarterback – it’s very rare that you blitz and actually sack the quarterback. What you’re trying to do is force a bad throw, force him to throw somewhere he doesn’t want to throw – on third-and-10, you blitz, they throw a 5-yard pass and you’re off the field.

At some point, the struggles of the Lions defense becomes a chicken and egg argument, when your defense is as undermanned as the Lions currently is. Is it their defensive line:

“Generally, your sacks come from coverage with a four-man pass rush where the quarterback as to hold the ball and wait for those plays down the field – it’s happened to our offense,” Schwartz said. “We’re not doing a good job with our four-man pass rush but a little bit of that goes hand-in-hand with our coverage. There have been times when we’ve had a good pass rush and then blown a coverage in the back end. But, that’s really the life blood of what you do defensively — stop the pass with a four-man pass rush. We need to do a better job of that.

“The bottom line is that we haven’t rushed well enough.”

Or does the problem actually reside with problems at the back end:

The secondary’s struggles have been attributed to injuries, poor communication and revolving personnel. Safety Louis Delmas, the only defensive back to start every game in which he has played, doesn’t want to hear it anymore.
“I’m tired of making excuses,” he said. “It’s always miscommunication here, not playing with certain people every game. It’s really nothing else, but we’ve just got to get in there, become one, study film as much as possible, go out there and get the job done. Right now, we’re not getting it done. Secondary-wise, we look pretty bad out there.”

The Lions likely knew that they were undermanned defensively entering the seaon. They probably didn’t have unreasonably high expectations. That being said, I think that they did believe that their bigger, stronger defensive front would generate some consistent pressure, and when blitzes needed to be called upon, their defense would be successful.

In particular, Cliff Avril’s 2.5 sacks, Julian Peterson’s 4.5 sacks, and DeWayne White’s “goose egg”, all of have likely not met the team’s expectations entering the season.

My initial concern entering the season, in regards to Avril, was that he would suffer from disappointing, regression of performance remniscent of the one that Kalimba Edwards suffered from after his very promising inaugural season. “Kalimba the Ghost” caused the Lions so much frustration, due to a tantalizingly high ceiling of potential, but little or no performance to pay off the Lions visions of his future grandeur. Avril needs to avoid Edwards’ pratfalls and become a productive player, soon.

All I know is that, in their remaining seven games, if they are going to remain at all competitive, the Lions defense needs to find the means to improve the performance of their front four. Otherwise, they will continue to get picked apart, allow “explosion” pass plays, and then get steamrolled with opponents ground attacks, after falling behind at a considerable deficit.

The Lions realize that their current situation, blitzing at an unreasonably high frequency, with little or no success, is no recipe for success.

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