A Look At How The Lions Gave Up Passing Touchdowns On Defense In 2016.
Lions Struggle To Defend The Air In ’16
As alluded in the defensive rushing touchdowns article, part of the Lions run stopping success was due to just how poor the Lions defended the end zone from quarterbacks in 2016. The Lions ended up the 31st worst team in the league in this category. While the team was ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of yards, the Lions gave up 33 passing touchdowns last season as a defensive unit.
The biggest two reasons for these struggles in 2016 was the Lions inability to create pressure consistently and their poor coverage in the middle of the field. These two issues worked in tandem this past season. If you can create pressure consistently, the negative repercussions of poor coverage are mitigated by incomplete passes and sacks. Or if you can cover effectively for much of the game you can give your defensive line more time to rush the quarterback. But if you cannot do either you can get picked apart in the NFL by experienced quarterbacks.
This was especially hard on the Lions in 2016 as a chance for their first division championship was resting on defeating the Packers in the last game of the regular season. The problem for Detroit was that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will make you pay if you give him time to move around the pocket. Rodgers was responsible for eight of the 33 touchdowns given up by Detroit through their two games last season, allowing four in each game. Unfortunately, those points would be too much to overcome and the Lions would lose both games and their division lead after the week 17 matchup.
Looking Forward To The 2017 Season
The Lions front office appears very aware of this issue from last year. They spent several early-mid round draft picks on rookies like linebackers Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Jamal Agnew. Tabor competing on the outside allows cornerback Nevin Lawson to move inside and compete at the nickel corner spot. Davis looks to be a lock at middle linebacker, but keep an eye out for Reeves-Maybin. He fell in the draft because of size and injury concerns not because of lack of ability. If Reeves-Maybin can stay healthy and build up some muscle, he could come in cover on 3rd downs to help this defense get off the field in 2017.
With how poor they were at stopping the passing game in 2016, it’s pretty likely the Lions will see some improvement in this category in 2017. Just how much remains to be seen, but with the new cast of rookies and a couple veteran free agents signed in the front seven, the Lions could be solidly in the middle of the pack next season. That improvement could be the difference between a wild card game and winning the NFC North.