If the Lions are going to make a big turn-around this season, the defense must step up. Quite frankly, it stinks. The turn-around should come quickly with the Seahawks visiting on Sunday.
The Lions’ defense rates at the bottom of the NFL in giving up points per game (31.0) and red zone efficiency (90.91%). It’s at 28th for total defense and takeaways. Rushing defense is ranked 27th, passing defense 25th.
“Not give up points. That’s how you fix it. But I will say this, in the red zone, man, you’ve got to watch this tape. I mean there are times when we’re in position, and we’re just not finishing plays,’’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said this week. “And a lot of times, we’ve got to make sure that we’re coaching the players to do the things that they need to do too, so. And I will continue to say, man, that’s a two-way street between coaches and players, and we’ve got to continue to understand that. But man, you watch those early parts of the game, we’re playing like gangbusters.’’
He said the guys are competing and playing physical until it gets to crunch times. “it just seems like, ‘Ah, how do we do this here, or do we have to do this and when we don’t?’ We just keep doing the same things we have been doing to put ourselves in that position, and that’s what we have to continue to coach, and that’s what we have to continue to do as players,’’ Glenn said.
The offense has had its share of injuries — and will be missing D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown on Sunday — but it still ranks third in the NFL in total offense and second in points per game.
Finger pointing is not allowed in the locker room, but all three units need to play better. Five things to watch as the Lions (1-2) host the Seahawks (1-2):
1. Defense must get more pressure on quarterback Geno Smith who leads the NFL with a 77.5 percent completion rate. It’s not all one rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson but he can do better. He had one half with three sacks and has made plays that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but he and the linemen can do better. Alim McNeil and Michael Brockers do their part on stopping the run but the line must step up.
2. The defensive backfield does not get a pass. With Tracy Walker (torn Achilles) out for the season their task will be even tougher. Coach DanCampbell would not say who will step in to fill Walker’s position. Cornerback Jeff Okudah has come back nicely from his torn Achilles last season. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye had a nightmare of a game against the Vikings with multiple penalties but the coaches still have faith in him. “I think Amani’s a pro and he had a rough game. And that’s – that’s just the bottom line. But I also know – he also snapped back there at the end and got a big stop for us one-on-one with (Adam) Thielen on the perimeter,’’ Campbell said. “So, I think Amani’s got thick skin. I know that he’s going to want to be better. And he’ll come out this week ready to work. I’m really not worried about him. I think he’ll snap right back to the Amani we know.”
3. Jared Goff has got off to a solid start and now must find ways to keep the chains moving without his two offensive stars, D’Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle) and Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) along with wide receivers Josh Reynolds (ankle) and D.J. Chark (ankle) who are both questionable. Goff said it really won’t change his role much. “We may or may not have a couple of those guys, the guys who would step in I feel comfortable with,’’ Goff said. “Last year as brutal as it was there were a lot of valuable reps with a lot of those guys who would potentially need to step in. It’s guys I would feel comfortable with.’’
4. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has come up with imaginative game plans and that’s expected to continue.An emphasis was put on third downs this week after they converted just 3 of 16 in the loss to the Vikings. “Clearly, we didn’t convert at the rate we’d like to. However, you look at last week, and we were a yard short on a number of them, so we are very close. I think we called the game the way we wanted to in those situations,’’ Johnson said.
5. Campbell will not change his modus operandi. He is who he is. But he is also introspective and admitted that he should have gone for it on fourth-and-4 late in the Vikings loss. “I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to learn from it no different than the players have to, and I’ve got to do my part, and I plan on doing my part,’’ Campbell said. “So, I’m not going to be fazed. I’m going to have this team up and ready to go, and we’re going to be better.”
Prediction: Seahawks 28, Lions 27. Detroit’s injuries on offense will be too much to overcome.