The Detroit Lions’ secondary should be better this year, but Pro Football Focus has ranked the unit harshly and appropriately as of now.
The Detroit Lions ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in interceptions with 11 last season. They were similarly dismal in passer rating (third-worst) and completion percentage (22nd in the league) allowed. Without the emergence of cornerback Amani Oruwariye (six interceptions), the numbers would have been markedly worse.
The Lions made some effort to add depth to their secondary this offseason, signing cornerback Mike Hughes and safety DeShon Elliott in free agency then drafting safety Kerby Joseph and cornerback Chase Lucas. If nothing else, competition will make everyone sharper.
For his part in bettering last year’s dismal interception total, safety Tracy Walker has said he intends to get his hands on a few more stray throws this season.
Pro Football Focus ranks Detroit Lions’ secondary appropriately
Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus has continued his NFL unit rankings with the secondaries in the league. The Lions are naturally down the list a good bit, in the “Serious Flaws” tier.
25. DETROIT LIONS
CB: Jeff Okudah
CB: Amani Oruwariye
NCB: Mike Hughes
S: DeShon Elliott
S: Tracy Walker
A good deal of this ranking hinges on Jeff Okudah looking more like the player who ranked fourth on PFF’s draft board back in 2020 and less like the one who’s allowed a career 121.8 passer rating into his coverage. The good news is that he’s still young, having turned 23 earlier this year.
Some players not listed as starters here–Joseph, cornerback AJ Parker, cornerback/safety Will Harris, cornerback Jerry Jacobs (when he’s ready to go coming off a torn ACL), cornerback (/safety?) Ifeatu Melifonwu and Lucas–are worth mentioning as potential key pieces for Detroit’s secondary.
But if Week 1 were next Sunday, Okudah (assuming he’s healthy), Oruwariye, Hughes, Walker and Elliott would be the five defensive backs on the field for the first snap against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Lions’ secondary can’t help but be better this year, aided by what should automatically be a better pass rush. But the unit has a long way to go before it’s anywhere near the conversation among the best in the league, as young players try to find their way this year–led by Okudah, as he tries to get/stay healthy and put his career on track.