Lions Defensive Line Impressive After Two Weeks
By Scott McMahon
Coming into the 2013 season, the Lions’ defensive focus was clearly the defensive line. After losing Cliff Avril to free agency and releasing Kyle Vanden Bosch in February, the Lions brought in free agent Israel Idonije and drafted defensive end Ziggy Ansah with the fifth overall pick in the draft. Teamed up with mainstay Ndamukong Suh and a healthy Nick Fairley, the Lions’ line had lofty expectations of carrying the defensive weight—stopping the running game and pressuring the quarterback into costly mistakes.
With only a small sample size of two games, it is hard to make broad generalizations for the rest of the season. But there have been many positives regarding the defensive line’s performance in the first two games of the season that bode well for the rest of the year.
Looking at individual statistics, no one player has stood out more than another, but as a unit, the Lions’ defensive line has been one of the most formidable in the NFL thus far. As expected, running the ball against the Lions has been difficult in the early part of the season. The Lions defense ranks second in the NFL in defensive stuffs (stopping a run behind the line) with eight. That comes from the line’s ability to get into the backfield, or create holes for linebackers to do the job. Furthermore, the Lions have stuffed opposing runners on 17% of running plays thus far, good for fourth in the league—and that includes their Week 1 matchup against Adrian Peterson. Detroit’s defense ranks 15th in the league in rushing yards per game, but keep in mind that 78 of the 192 yards against the Lions came on one play in Week 1. Take that run away from Peterson, and the Lions have given up just 114 yards on the ground, which would put them third in the NFL in that statistic.
Their effort in disrupting the passing game has also been noticeable. Although the secondary hasn’t played up to its full potential, the Lions rank second in the NFL in interceptions, due in part to the ten hurries by the defensive line and linebacker corps. Sack numbers can still go up—just four through two games—but the line has been able to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks on a consistent basis.
I mentioned it above, but it bears mentioning again—the defensive line has put up these numbers even with Adrian Peterson in their schedule. Peterson’s line against Detroit in Week 1 was good for any running back: 18 carries for 93 yards, two touchdowns, and an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Keep in mind that 78 of those yards came on his first touch—after that touchdown run, the Lions allowed Peterson to gain just 15 yards on 17 carries—an average of 0.88 yards per carry.
Both sides of the ball still have kinks to work out, especially if Reggie Bush ends up missing time, but the defensive line’s strong play is certainly a positive that the rest of the team can jump from. The coaching staff will continue to work on the secondary and limiting big play potential with opponents like Green Bay and Cincinnati coming up, but with the line playing the way it is, containing the league’s elite quarterbacks may not be as difficult as first projected.