First Things First: Pass Rush Must Be Detroit’s #1 Priority

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On Why Defense Should be Bob Quinn‘s Priority In The First Round Of The 2018 Draft


If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you know what a truly miserable experience it is. Cramped spaces. Wailing brats. Stale pretzels. Some amoeba in your row who doesn’t understand we live in a society and takes up two armrests even though he has the window. The monotone delivery of the captain whose droning evokes questions about his blood alcohol level and concern for your wellbeing. But, most importantly, you know to buckle your seatbelt – just in case you plummet to the earth! – and to situate your oxygen mask before anybody else’s.

In the same respect, Bob Quinn cannot fiddle with other positions before addressing the team’s hypoxic pass rush. Although the team has been missing a dynamic back since you-know-who retired, a first round running back is a luxury the team can ill afford. And while a left guard wouldn’t exactly be a fifth wheel, the offense proved that it can operate effectively under substandard conditions in 2017. The defense, however, needs pass rush.

Badly.

And with good quarterback play being the most important component to winning, it only makes sense that disrupting passers isn’t far behind. So, although the Lions have several needs – more than we care to admit, in fact – this is the most urgent.

Getting By in Other Areas

The stable of backs is adequate and offers depth and balance, especially since Legarrette Blount was signed to a one-year deal, and the offensive line should benefit greatly from the stability that accompanies good health. If Blount can convert on short yardage and the offensive line can stay healthy, the Detroit running game should be much improved in 2018 with no additional assembly required.

Yes, a gamebreaking back would be exciting, but the Lions will always be a pass-first team with Stafford, so the threat of the run is sufficient. Furthermore, running backs are hemorrhaging value in a pass-intoxicated league. Quality runners can, and will, be found on the second and third days of the draft.

And yes, the thought of Stafford on his back is cringe-inducing, but, again, the line should be much-improved this year. And with a wealth of talent at the guard and center positions, Detroit could have a plug-and-play starter drop to them in the second round.

As For the Defensive Line…

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But, do we have real hope for the defensive line if they don’t get an impact starter through the draft? They added a run-defending edge in Devon Kennard and beefed up the interior with nose tackle Sylvester Williams, which is to say they did little to address pass rush in free agency.

The front four generated some pressure last season, albeit at an inconsistent rate. Anthony Zettel had something of a breakout year, but his 2017 season followed the same downward trajectory as the 2016 campaign of Kerry Hyder, who is working to come back from an Achilles tear. And, speaking of injuries, Ziggy Ansah has been less than 100% for two straight years and is still something of an enigma as he enters his sixth season. Meanwhile, the defensive interior didn’t fare much better as that unit failed to offer pocket push last season.

New head coach Matt Patricia has been hailed as a defensive mastermind, but he can’t be expected to turn water into wine. Look no further than how he fared in 2017 with nothing but spare parts to work with. (As Warren Sharp noted here, the Patriots’ so-called defensive resurgence was partially due to a relatively weak offensive schedule late in the season). New England’s lack of pass-rushing talent can be easily identified as the culprit for their uncharacteristically poor DVOA ranking (31st) last year. It is imperative that Bob Quinn gives Patricia something to work with, so pass rush, whether it be provided by an edge rusher or an interior player, must be Plan A at 20.

So, What Ultimately Happens?

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Harold Landry may be a pipe dream at this point, but Marcus Davenport is an intriguing option at edge, while 3-techniques Taven Bryan and Da’ron Payne have flashed the ability to make life hell on opposing quarterbacks. These are players who should be around come pick 20, but if other teams pick off the usual suspects before Detroit gets their turn at the podium, a guard (or a cornerback) wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. In a perfect world, however, the Lions will introduce a disruptive presence to the defensive line with the 20th pick.

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