The Detroit Lions had a problem stopping the run last season. How serious problem. Detroit finished 31st in the DVOA race, which allowed 2,296 yards and 135 first falls to the ground – both of which placed them in the top five teams in the NFL.
Of course, there are many things when it comes to stopping your run. Your defensive front needs to be solid along the inside, keeping offensive liners from getting their hands on and dictating action. Defensive ends must be an advantage and not give runners the opportunity to reflect something in space. In the case of the 2021 Detroit Lions, they had trouble stopping the run on all of the above.
According to the great data stored at Sharp Football Analysis, the Lions were cut all over the place, but most often the teams were leading the soccer right in the middle of Detroit. In 2021, teams took football 111 times up the center at a healthy 4.8 yards ahead. But solid defense is not the sole responsibility of the defense front; Linebackers, the second line of defense, have to do well with readings and assignments to limit the yards gained on the ground.
If Detroit is looking to improve in this regard, and picking players like Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal will surely help on the brink, their defenders will have to take a step forward to change the Lions’ ability to stop the run.
This leads to today’s question of the day …
Do you believe in the depth of Lions in linebacker?
Earlier this week, Lions linebacker coach Kelvin Sheppard spoke to DetroitLions.com’s Tim Twentyman about the state of the reserve halls in Detroit.
“Some coaches complain and groan,“ Oh, I didn’t get a high choice. I didn’t get a highly paid freelance agent ”where I am the other way around. I take it, ”Sheppard said of the Lions approach to the linebacker position during this off-season. “Because what I see – I tell the players that – I can see myself. I can see myself in this room. I see hungry gamers biting madly and gambling taking the opportunity to move on and have a contract type year.
According to Sheppard, Lions CEO Brad Holmes did not make any wobbly moves to improve the linebacker’s position off-season. Instead, he chose to re-sign with Alex Anzalone, bring back Jarrad Davis after his New York leave with the Jets, and replace Jalen Reeves-Maybin’s specials with ace Chris Board’s specials from the Baltimore Ravens. He added a pair of sixth-round players, FCS standout James Houston of Jackson State and everyone-favorite third-pick Malcolm Rodriguez to bolster youth and depth on the linebacker. Plus, Holmes – and Sheppard – are counting on these players, including second-year Derrick Barnes, to help each other in the game.
“Of all the guys we have in this room, there will be a bloodbath there,” Dan Campbell commented to the press on Thursday. “There is a lot of experience, there is a lot of youth, there is a lot of energy. I think when you combine it with the type, and on top of that, each of these guys is competitive. They are very competitive. I just think man, when we come out with the finished product and the two or three that remain standing there will be more, but I mean, I think we’re going to be excited about these guys.
With no player involved at the start, we hope the competition will bring out what this group has to offer. After watching a player like Anzalone struggle last season to clean up matches and tackle, the thought of his return as a team starter for MIKE is worrying. Anzalone finished first in the league in missed tackles (21.2) with at least 50% of the 1,218 snaps played, but as the team captain last season, his squad value appears to be intangible and leadership. Aside from Anzalone, none of the players in the Lions squad have much, if any, initial NFL experience.
So the question heading to the training camp will repeat itself: without any starting-level talent in the linebacker currently on the list, will the proverbial cream break through the competition and bring some starters to the top of the Detroit depth table?