It's time to simplify the Lions' defense.
Well, at least according to Detroit head coach Matt Patricia, who spoke during his media session Thursday about the importance of "trying to do less in order to play faster."
As any even moderate observer of the Lions has noticed, nothing has gone right for the defense in the team's first four games of the season.
And the numbers prove it.
Through the first quarter of the 2020 campaign, Detroit has allowed 31.8 points per game -- the 29th-most in the NFL -- and the 28th-most yards in the league at 1,620 total yards, including a league-worst 681 yards against the run.
The Lions' porous ways defensively have led to criticism from many pundits, including Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash.
According to Treash, the Lions possess the worst defense in the NFL.
As he writes,
“The Lions rank near the bottom of the league in each of run defense, pass rushing, coverage and overall tackling. They have allowed 0.18 expected points added per rush (highest in the NFL), generated pressure at the sixth-lowest rate (26%), earned the fifth-lowest team coverage grade and produced the fourth-worst tackling grade.”
Patricia does indeed have a lot to clean up on the defensive side of the ball, and his solution to it all: Minimizing what each player has to do once Sunday arrives.
"There are things that you dial back on and allow the guys to play a little bit faster on the field, maybe a little bit less trying to process as some things are going on," Patricia said. "I would say it’s probably across the board, maybe some things fundamentally we’re trying to do that we’re just not ready for that I think we just have to backtrack a little bit and do some other things well first, before we build on top of that."
He went on to further explain the aspects of the game he would like to make easier for his players to understand as the season progresses.
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"Some of that is scheme. Some of it’s communication, which again, a lot of times if you’re out there in (a) heavy communication game -- certainly like we were against the Saints -- some of the stuff that we looked at earlier where that tends to be very confusing, we have to dial some of that back," Patricia explained. "Those are all things from the self-scout from the bye week we felt we could implement going forward and really just try to build on it as we go. We understand we’re going to need some of that stuff somewhere down the road. At this point, let’s just try to play some good football.”
And they must do just that and play some good football, if they have any hope of turning around their season and becoming a team that is able to contend for a playoff spot.
Tracy Walker and Romeo Okwara acknowledge "thinking less" could benefit defense
So far, the results on the football field have clearly not been good, especially for the defense.
From technique to scheme, there has been a multitude of reasons for why that has been the case.
But, the defense might also benefit from doing a little less thinking when lacing up the cleats and stepping onto the gridiron.
Third-year safety Tracy Walker acknowledged Thursday during a video conference with Detroit media that it could play a role in getting him and his teammates to heighten their level of play the rest of the way this season.
"If you're not thinking out there and you're just reacting, that's the best play," Walker said. "When you're out there thinking, you're going to play a step slower. So, I feel like I understand where he (Patricia) is coming from in that aspect. He just wants everyone to go out there and play fast and play hard. And he feels like, I guess ... he feels like we've been thinking too much. So, that's what he means by simplifying it. He wants us to just go out there and make plays."
The Lions will have their first chance to prove if simplifying things and playing a faster brand of football can help them win games in their Week 6 contest with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
According to veteran defensive end Romeo Okwara, Detroit has had a good week of practice coming off the bye week, too.
"We've done a really good job this week. Everyone has come to practice this week with great energy. We look a lot faster. I'm sure the bye week was definitely much needed. Helped a lot," Okwara said during his Thursday media session, reflecting on the advantageous aspect of simplifying things. "But, yeah, everyone's moving fast on the field. We've had really good practices the past two days. So, I think we're seeing that."