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The Lions are at the halfway point in the 2019 season, sitting at 3-4-1 and in third place in the NFC North. 

Yesterday, we handed out grades for the Lions' offensive position groups. 

Today, we'll do the same for the team's defensive position groups.

Without further ado, here are our grades for Detroit's defense through eight games: 

Defensive line

When Matt Patricia was hired in 2018, the position unit that was expected to rise the most under his tutelage was the defensive line.

Last year, that seemed to be the case. 

Then-rookie Da’Shawn Hand was a force, and Romeo Okwara was a formidable pass rusher. 

Meanwhile, Damon “Snacks” Harrison, a midseason acquisition from the N.Y. Giants, was a force in the interior.

So far this year, the Lions haven't deployed many blitzes, and instead have relied on their defensive line to create pressure.

The philosophy hasn't produced very fruitful results. 

In fact, the Lions rank just 26th in sacks per game -- down 16 spots from the organization's mark in 2018.

And despite the fact that Patricia & Co. have adjusted and deployed more blitz packages in recent weeks, they still have ranked only 30th in the league in sacks over the last three weeks.

Meanwhile, the rushing defense, which ranked 11th overall in 2018, sits at 27th in the league at the halfway point.

Additionally, Football Outsiders -- an innovative statistics website -- ranks Detroit’s defensive line 29th in the league.

Given the dollars this franchise has invested in Harrison and newcomer Trey Flowers, the defensive line has left a lot to be desired.

Grade: D+


If you came here to be told this unit is good, it might be time to close the tab.

If you thought D+ was harsh on the defensive line, it’s not getting better with the linebackers.

Former first-round pick Jarrad Davis ranks dead last in Pro Football Focus’ linebacker grades.

Devon Kennard has fared better than Davis through eight games. 

Kennard ranks 41st in the league in tackles for loss with five. 

No other linebackers for Detroit rank inside the top 100 in the stat.

Rookie Jahlani Tavai, meanwhile, looks to have legit upside, and is already a more intriguing player than Davis.

However, at this juncture, between a multitude of missed tackles and instances of blown coverage, the linebackers unit is down in a big way for the franchise.

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Grade: D-


The Lions' pass defense ranks 30th in the league. Yikes.

Weirdly enough, the Lions rank first in the league in incompletions forced per game.

While it’s easy to stamp this unit with a “F” following the first statistic, looking deeper into the film and play of the defensive backs signals it’s a bit more complex.

Cornerback Darius Slay, arguably the face of the franchise after quarterback Matthew Stafford, has missed some time, and has made his thoughts about the franchise loud and clear in the meantime.

Meanwhile, Justin Coleman, for the most part, has showcased why he’s worth the high price tag the Lions spent on him this offseason. 

Due to Slay missing time, though, Coleman -- a slot cornerback -- hasn't always been tasked with covering opponents' slot receivers. 

He's, instead, been forced to play at the top cornerback position -- a role designated for Slay when he's healthy.

It's resulted in Coleman being the most targeted cornerback in the NFL this season, per PFF. 

Coleman has been thrown at 68 times and has allowed 45 receptions. 

Both marks rank as league-highs among corners.

Rashaan Melvin -- the cornerback opposite Coleman in Slay’s absence -- meanwhile, is 18th in the league in targets (49) and in receptions allowed (30).

Slay is off the mend now, though. So, perhaps his presence will serve as a remedy for the struggles of the Lions' corners in recent weeks.

Grade: D+


Second-year pro Tracy Walker has impressed in place of longtime starter Glover Quin. 

Pro Football Focus has Walker graded out at a 74.2, and he’s seventh in the NFL among safeties with 46 tackles.

Tavon Wilson -- the replacement for former team captain and starting safety Quandre Diggs -- has disappointed, though. 

He's allowed 10 catches on 14 targets. 

And while he can be an asset in run support, he's not quite the asset that Diggs was when defending against the run.

Rookie Will Harris, the Lions' other strong side safety, has allowed 10 catches on 10 targets. However, it seems as if Patricia still sees upside in Harris.

In Walker, there’s a lot to be excited about for the future. He's, right now, just beginning to scratch the surface of his ceiling.

At the other safety spot, Detroit needs an upgrade and needs to start paying attention to what Grant Delpit is doing at LSU. 

Hopefully, he’s still available when the Lions are on the clock in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Grade: With Diggs, a C; without Diggs, a D+

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