Undoubtedly, improving the talent level in Detroit should equal more wins, but there are also schematic ways of improving the team's win total.
They are the following: Improving the blitz rate, increasing the number of interceptions and increasing the number of average yards per carry.
Stats do not lie, and stats are very telling, especially when you compare Detroit's numbers against the rest of the league.
1.) Improve the blitz rate
Outside of throwing touchdown passes, getting to the quarterback is one of the most important things a defense can do.
If a team just lets the QB sit back in the pocket and surgically dissect a defense, the result is typically a lot of losing.
Last season, Detroit ranked 26th in QB sacks (an average of 1.5 per game, according to teamrankings.com).
How did all the playoff teams rank?
Six of the 12 playoff teams in 2020 ranked in the top 10 in QB sacks, and five of those teams are in the NFC (New Orleans, Seattle, Washington, Tampa Bay and the L.A. Rams).
The Super Bowl champion Buccaneers ranked sixth, averaging 2.9 sacks per game, which was about double the sack rate of the Lions.
Getting to the QB starts with blitz rate. It also involves simply trying to get to the QB, which is something Detroit has not been known for over the past few seasons.
In 2020, Detroit's blitz rate was 23.7 percent. This is something the Lions must improve on, if they want to climb up the stairs of the NFC North's basement.
The Lions gave up the most yards of any team in the NFL last season (6,716). Needless to say, ranking dead last is not the magic formula for winning.
The good news for Detroit fans is that there is a new regime in town, and with that regime comes defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
In New Orleans, Glenn worked under defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, and the Saints blitzed like crazy on third downs.
Expect Detroit to move away from such a heavy emphasis on man-to-man pass coverage and to mix up their coverages more. This should improve Detroit's blitz rate by itself.
2.) Increase the number of interceptions
After ranking 32nd in the NFL in pass coverage, there is no place to go other than up.
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Changing the team's base defense should help, as well. With Detroit going to a 3-4 base defense (three defensive linemen and four linebackers), it will free up the team's best pass-rushers in Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara more often and allow them to freelance in space as linebackers.
In 2020, Detroit's defense also produced a low total number of interceptions (seven), despite the heavy emphasis on pass coverage.
Again, by comparison, the Buccaneers recorded 15 interceptions on the season.
Getting to the QB more will also help in this category, as the two stats go hand-in-hand.
If Detroit just lets the QB sit back in the pocket, the odds of seeing a lot of the types of balls that have a high chance of being intercepted are slim. However, if the defense can find a way to apply more pressure, the result should be more forced and errant throws, which will improve on that number.
To put the team's interception statistics into even more perspective, all 12 playoff teams were in the double digits in INTs (between 10-18).
3.) Increase the number of average yards per carry
On offense, another surefire way of improving upon the team's win-loss record is on the ground.
No surprise, but Detroit ranked near last in this category last season, as well (30th, with 93.7 rushing yards per game).
Having trouble picking up yardage on the ground puts more pressure on the QB to pick up the needed yardage through the air. And, when that does not happen, it results in putting more pressure on the team's defense.
To put this statistic in perspective, Baltimore, a playoff team in 2020, ranked first in the league in average yards per game (192.1 yards/game).
Hard-running, free-agent running back Jamaal Williams, along with second-year back D'Andre Swift, should be able to improve on this number, especially given head coach Dan Campbell's Bill Parcells smash-mouth football background.
Pounding the ball was a trademark of Parcells' Giants Super Bowl teams.
If the Lions can indeed find a way to improve on these three important statistics, it should improve the statistic that matters the most, which is winning.
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