Lions’ Campbell breaks down pass-rush struggles, seeking more from team’s top players

Detroit News

Allen Park — The ineffectiveness of the Detroit Lions’ pass rush has been one of the team’s biggest early-season disappointments, directly contributing to an inability to slow down the Seattle Seahawks and quarterback Geno Smith in Sunday’s 37-31 overtime loss.

Smith was highly efficient, completing 78.0% of his passes for 328 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Much of that success came because the Lions couldn’t get to him. Despite the Lions throwing more than a dozen blitzes at the veteran QB, he easily evaded pressure throughout the contest. The Lions didn’t manage to get a hand on him until linebacker Alex Anzalone sacked Smith in the final two minutes of the contest, only after Smith had danced around the pocket, avoiding multiple defenders.

This wasn’t how things were supposed to go this season. The Lions seemingly turned a corner with their pass rush a year ago, behind the additions of Aidan Hutchinson, John Cominsky and James Houston, ranking top 10 in pressure rate and middle of the pack with 39 sacks. And with those three returning, and Charles Harris, Romeo Okwara and Josh Paschal back at full health after dealing with injuries a year ago, the young group was poised to take the next step.

And while two games hardly define a season, those expectations have not come close to fruition so far, with the Lions struggling to get home against Smith, and versus Patrick Mahomes in Week 1.

Asked about the lack of an effective pass rush, Lions coach Dan Campbell highlighted a number of issues, some physical, some mental.

On the physical side of the equation, Campbell said the team is doing a poor job on play-action, shifting from the mindset of stopping the run to getting after the QB after the run-fake is diagnosed.

“We have to transition much quicker,” Campbell said. “Our urgency has to go up there, and our violence has to go up to shed those blockers. That will go a long way.”

He also noted that the defenders aren’t doing a good enough job of winning in one-on-one situations.

From a mental standpoint, Campbell criticized his group for not being assignment-sound, which includes trying to do too much, not trusting your teammates to do their job and vacating the designed rush lanes.

Finally, while not naming names, Campbell said the team is expecting more out of its best players.

“I just think defensively, we need our most reliable players to be reliable,” Campbell said. “That was a big thing that came out of that game. …I just expect more. I expect more reliability out of those guys. They know who they are and we just hold them to high standards.”

The Lions will look to get the pass rush on track this week against the Atlanta Falcons, who gave up four sacks in their season opener, but just one last Sunday in a victory over the Green Bay Packers.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter/X: @Justin_Rogers

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