Lions Have Made Improvements, But Still Have Key Deficiencies

Vito Chirco

Undoubtedly, the Lions need to improve on their 3-12-1 mark and last-place finish in the NFC North from a year ago.

The fates of Detroit head man Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn likely depend upon it.

But, did the organization make enough strides during the offseason to become competitive in 2020?

Let's take a look now at what areas they made improvements in and at what areas they still need to work on, starting with the areas where they made progress.

Areas of improvement

1.) No. 2 running back

Quinn went out, and addressed the need for a complementary piece to incumbent No. 1 back Kerryon Johnson via this past April's NFL Draft.

He selected Georgia product D'Andre Swift with the No. 35 overall pick in the second round.

Johnson, who's entering his third year in the NFL, has failed to stay healthy for a full season thus far.

So, at the very least, Detroit needed to acquire a safety valve for Johnson.

The good thing about Swift is that he's also a clear-cut upgrade over Bo Scarbrough, the team's No. 2 back a year ago.

And Swift is so talented that he'll likely emerge as a threat to Johnson for the lead back job by the end of the season.

2.) Backup QB

When Matthew Stafford went down with a back ailment and was forced to miss the final eight games of the 2019 campaign, career backup Jeff Driskel and undrafted rookie free agent David Blough were forced into action.

It was far from an opportune situation for the Lions, and they proceeded to go winless without Stafford under center.

Subsequently, the franchise clearly had a need for an upgrade at the position.

Enter veteran Chase Daniel, who started off his NFL career as the backup to future Pro Football Hall of Famer Drew Brees in New Orleans.

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Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

Daniel, in fact, spent two different stints with the Saints (from 2010-12 and in 2017).

Most recently, he served as the backup to the much-maligned Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago.

Going into his 11th NFL season, Daniel -- a University of Missouri product -- has only made five starts, and has accounted for just seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

So, he's never going to be confused for one of the best backups in the league.

Yet and most importantly for the Lions' sake, he's still largely viewed as an upgrade over Driskel.

3.) Secondary

Sure, the Lions parted ways with veteran shutdown cornerback Darius Slay this offseason.

But, they also managed to add some valuable pieces to the secondary.

They acquired productive veterans in the form of ex-Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant and former New England Patriots safety Duron Harmon.

And most notably, Quinn & Co. drafted former Ohio State standout corner Jeff Okudah with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.

He has a great shot at developing into an All-Pro defensive back as his career progresses.

And he should immediately be an impact performer in Detroit's defensive backfield.

The three aforementioned acquisitions give the secondary a chance to be much improved in 2020.

Areas where more work is needed

1.) Pass-rush department

Detroit's pass rush was the definition of anemic a season ago.

It consistently allowed opposing passers far too much time to sit back in the pocket and to survey the field.

Quarterbacks took advantage of the ample amount of time, carving up the Lions' secondary to the tune of 4,551 yards -- the most amount of passing yards allowed in the NFL last season.

And what did Quinn do to rectify the issue? Seemingly not enough.

The organization failed to add a prolific pass rusher to the mix.

The best Quinn did to fill the void was drafting Notre Dame product and stand-up EDGE rusher Julian Okwara -- yes, the brother of Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara -- with the franchise's first of two third-round picks this past April.

Many fans and pundits, however, suspect that the addition of the younger Okwara won't be enough to drastically improve the team's pass-rush unit from a year ago.  

And I can't fault them for believing that to be the case.

2.) Replacing Graham Glasgow at right guard

Quinn made a valiant effort in attempting to replace the veteran Glasgow this offseason by drafting offensive guards Jonah Jackson (second Lions pick of third round) and Logan Stenberg (fourth-round selection) with back-to-back picks.

However, both guys will have a tough time with trying to replace the production of Glasgow, who spent four seasons in Detroit.

Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports

Glasgow, who finished as Pro Football Focus' ninth-ranked offensive guard in 2019, was one of five offensive guards in the NFL last season to suit up for more than 10 games and allow no sacks, according to PFF.

Jackson and Stenberg each have a shot at being solid rookies. But, they'll be hard-pressed to be as productive as Glasgow during their first year in the league.

3.) Linebacker

Quinn made a smart move in inking veteran linebacker Jamie Collins to a three-year, $30 million deal this offseason.  

He's viewed by some as one of the top off-ball linebackers in the league, and thus, is far from the reason why linebacker is listed as one of the areas where more work is needed.

Instead, it's because of his counterparts at the position.

Second-year pro Jahlani Tavai flashed some glimpses of excellence last year, but was inconsistently productive.

Meanwhile, veterans Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones were largely disappointing.

The most effective performer among Detroit's linebackers in 2019 was Devon Kennard, who was cut earlier this offseason by Quinn & Co.

Kennard tied for the team lead in sacks (seven) with defensive end Trey Flowers a season ago.

There's still a lot of uncertainty regarding what linebacker spots individuals are going to line up at, including Collins.

And with that, there remains a fair amount of doubt about how productive the position group will be this upcoming season.


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Comments (2)
No. 1-2

I think the improvements were made, but Vito does bring up valid concerns heading into the 2020 season


The Lions improved pretty much every area of need on both sides of the ball...
Do more research on how Shelton will improve the pass rush... Do more research on how his addition to the team improves the others to create a pass rush with the Jack position... Hand, Shelton and Williams will allow Bryant and the Okwara brothers to get after the QB... Don't look at the # of sacks.. Look at the pressure and then look at the improvement on the secondary.. It all starts with the NT.