Detroit Lions, Def, Lions
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2015 Outlook: Quality BackupLast updated on Aug-20-2015 by Shawn Childs
Detroit has five games against teams with weak rushing attacks: the Cardinals, the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and two contests against the Bears. The Lions will have their hands full trying to stop the Seahawks and the 49ers on the ground. They'll face five teams with strong passing attacks: the Broncos, Eagles, Saints and two games versus the Green Bay Packers. The Lions also have seven games against poor aerial attacks: the Raiders, Chiefs, Rams, Seahawks, 49ers and a pair of games against the Minnesota Vikings.
As mentioned in the introduction, the Lions had the league's best run defense last season. They also recorded the eighth-most sacks (42). They finished 13th against the pass, allowing 3,706 yards and 23 TDs. They also grabbed 20 interceptions.
Defensive end Jason Jones is expected to be ready for training camp after undergoing offseason knee surgery. He had five sacks last season and was pretty good against the run. Haloti Ngata is a plus run defender, and Tyrunn Walker was above average against the run and the pass as a situational player in 2014 with the Saints. His game isn't strong enough to be a full-time starter. DT Caraun Reid is a player with upside. His quickness has value in the pass rush, but he needs to add more strength to earn more playing time. DE Ezekiel Ansah, the No. 5 pick in 2013, played at an elite level against the run last year and has notched 15.5 sacks through his first two seasons.
Detroit needs 2014 second-round linebacker Kyle Van Noy to take a step forward. Kyle was on the field for only 54 plays in 2014 following surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle last summer. He should add value to the pass rush while being a plus in pass coverage. Kyle doesn't have elite change-of-direction speed, which hurt him when he's defending the run. LB Stephen Tulloch tore the ACL in his left knee last September and should be ready to go from the start this season. Tulloch is a solid run defender with upside in pass coverage. LB DeAndre Levy is coming off his best season in the NFL by a wide margin. Levy was dominant against the run, although he had just 2.5 sacks in 16 games.
Cornerback Darius Slay played well in pass coverage in his second season after being selected in the second round in 2013. He allowed 59 catches on 105 attempts for 734 yards, three TDs and two INTs. Cornerback Rashean Mathis has been an above-average player in coverage over the past two years. He allowed 55 catches on 90 targets for 558 yards and three TDs in 2014. Safety Glover Quin provides a slight edge in run support and was exceptional in coverage last year, coming down with seven interceptions. Safety James Ihedigbo is a physical player with some value against the run and the pass.
The Lions' run defense has to take a step back with Suh no longer in town. But there is still enough talent around for this defense to be above average in that department. The pass rush will also take a hit as opposing O-lines won't have to double on the inside any more. This may also lead to Detroit's secondary being exposed more often. Detroit will be a borderline top-12 Fantasy defense in 2015.
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