Open thread: How concerned are you about the Lions’ defense?

Pride of Detroit

Well, that sucked.

When news came out that the Detroit Lions would be without Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, and D’Andre Swift for their game against the Seattle Seahawks, the idea of a low-scoring affair was not out of the question. St. Brown and Chark were key cogs in the passing game, while Swift had put together some of the best games of his career to start the season. Coupled with the Seahawks boasting a fairly lackluster offense, a combined score under 45 points was reasonable.

Instead, the two teams nearly combined for 100 points in what turned into a defense-optional game. Neither Jared Goff nor Geno Smith nor Jamaal Williams nor Rashaad Penny were met with much resistance as offense dominated the day. While it was a big spot for the offense, the defensive performance raised some serious red flags.

The Lions defense got their butts kicked by the Seahawks offense drive after drive. Seattle’s punter Michael Dickson essentially had the day off, as Detroit failed to force a single punt. Every Seahawks drive ended with points, a missed field goal, or the final whistle.

To say this was a horrific performance would be putting it mildly. In the first three weeks, the Seahawks had scored a total of 47 points—they surpassed that on Sunday alone. The Lions are allowing an average of 35.3 points per game, a mind-boggling statistic. Even the 2021 Lions, featuring a defense many would agree was less talented than the 2022 version, only averaged 27.5 points allowed per game. In fact, teams rarely average more than 30 points allowed per game. The Lions will likely regress to the mean—I sure hope they do—but the initial returns for their defense are concerning at best, panic-inducing at worst.

Today’s Question of the Day is:

How concerned are you about the Lions’ defense?

My answer: I am somewhat concerned.

Your answer to this question will likely depend on your timeline for the Lions’ rebuild. The progress from the offense this season has been stellar, but I still think the Lions are a year away from competing. As such, the struggles of the defense are a concern, but not one worth causing widespread panic—yet.

The consensus entering the season was that the defense was still a subpar unit, and that remains the case. The core of the defense is not vastly different from its 2021 counterpart, which was largely a disaster. The saving grace of that season, however, was the bottom-of-the-barrel expectation that came with such a depleted roster. The successes of Charles Harris, Jerry Jacobs, and AJ Parker were seen as bonuses for a season that was written off by many. Everyone knew the Lions were a work in progress, but being able to turn up a few promising players gave hope for a quicker-than-expected turnaround.

This season has not had the same feel to it. While the breakout play of rookie Malcolm Rodriguez is comparable to the rise of those previously mentioned defenders, expectations were that the Lions defense would take a step out of the NFL’s basement. Another under-the-radar success like Rodriguez is great for the team, don’t get me wrong, but at some point, the defense as a whole needs to put it together. Perhaps it was too quick to assume that for this season, but the lack of overall development is concerning.

I won’t rush to hit the panic button simply because I don’t think all the crucial pieces are there yet, and the ones that are here aren’t in prime form yet. Aidan Hutchinson has been banged up in recent weeks, and it has visibly impacted his pop on the field. Tracy Walker, a focal point of the defense, is out for the season, and it is no surprise the defense was suffering in his absence. Two young defensive linemen, Levi Onwuzurike and Josh Paschal, have yet to make their return from injury. Jacobs is also recovering from injury, and with the struggles of Amani Oruwariye, his return to the lineup is becoming an urgent need. If you want to dive further into the roster pool, Kerby Joseph and Ifeatu Melifonwu are still getting the hang of being NFL safeties, and that development will take time.

Of note, the Lions will need to add a starting-caliber linebacker and defensive tackle to pair with Rodriguez and Alim McNeill, respectively. Depending on the performance of Oruwariye and Jacobs down the stretch, a cornerback could be added to that list too. The Lions roster doesn’t scream “elite defense” yet, so the subpar play isn’t overly surprising.

That being said, what is perhaps most concerning is the defensive scheming under Aaron Glenn. The defensive game plan has stood out for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks, and nothing exemplified it quite like the long Rashaad Penny touchdown runs. By all accounts, the Lions should have had a stop in both situations. The first one came on a third-and-16, something no competent defense should allow to convert, let alone score a touchdown. The second game with the game on the line and a run being far from unexpected. To have a total lapse like that reflects poorly on Glenn. The Lions did not look prepared.

I, along with most Lions fans, want to see the defense succeed as soon as possible. I am still stressing patience with the team, but I will need to see some positive signs soon.

Your turn.

Poll

How concerned are you about the Lions’ defense?

  • 0%
    Not concerned

    (0 votes)

  • 0%
    Somewhat concerned

    (0 votes)

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    Very concerned

    (0 votes)

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    Extremely concerned

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