Time to Talk Pass Rush in Depth

In light of the excellent thread started by LongintheTooth I wanted to look closer at the 2020 Lions and rushing the passer.

I think most here understand this defensive scheme relies on scheme and down to generate pressure versus pure player talent. For example the Patriots were 9th in team sacks in 2017 (Patricia’s last year there, with no player over 6.5 sacks/season), 17th in sacks in 2016 (no player over 7 sacks), 2nd in team sacks in 2014 (49 sacks, Chandler Jones had 12 and Sheard had 8) and in 2014 the Pats were 13th in sacks. 4 seasons of roughly average to great in 2015.

But in terms of points scored allowed…the 2017 Patriots were 5th in the league in 2017, they were 1st in points allowed in 2016 (remember, they were 17th in sacks that season), in 2015 they were 10th in points allowed and in 2014 they were 8th in points allowed. That smells like playoff defenses to me.

In 2019 the Patriots were 1st in points allowed doind what Patricia did in 2016.

In terms of QB rating allowed the Pats were 17th in 2017, 8th in 2016, 13th in 2015 and 10th in 2014. Nothing to write home about overall but consistent and solid.

Point is if this offense can score points and pressure the other team (like the Pats did with Brady)…can this defense pressure/sack the QB enough to stop teams when it counts? We sure as hell sucked at that in 2019.

We have Flowers coming back and this guy is a really, really good player for us. Maybe a 10 sacks guy (that would be a career high for him)? He is a 6-7.5 sack/season guy now. We added Jamie Collins who seems like a 5+ sack guy to me. But past that who do we have? Kennard is gone.

Jarrad Davis has had sacks in the past and he might help there. But it smells to me like there is a lot of pressure on Romeo Okwara, Austin Bryant, Da’Shawn Hand, Nick Williams, rookie rookie Julian Okwara, Jahlani Tavai and then Danny Shelton. IF all these guys can get 3 sacks apiece That is 21 sacks there. And if Flowers and Collins can combine for 14 that is 38.

That is roughly just under mid-point in the league. Can those guys get more sacks? Yes but counting on it is not smart.

I look at all this and I think we are one more DL guy away from really getting after a QB. I am happy with LBers and possible edge guys.

I personally am eying Marcell Dareus. 30 years old. Had a core muscle injury which ended his season in 2019. A guy like Dareus might be the interior pressure guy we need to rest Shelton and to help plug the run in a rotational role. Marcell didn’t put up numbers like he did with the Bills but I would feel like we can push a pocket if we rotate Shelton and Dareus. That would make our edge players more effective and maybe make this defense pop.



Here’s some perspective for you.

The Lions were 30th in sacks last year with 1.8 per game. If they can get to 2.8 per game they jump to above average. NE and KC had 2.8 per game last year for comparison.

GB 2.6
Min 2.9

We’re talking just one more sack a game pretty easy to do right? Then you realize that’s 16 more sacks a season. Maybe not so easy?

But in 2018 MP’s defense averaged 2.8 per game. So let’s forget the argument that MP’s system doesn’t get sacks. What changed?

In 2019 the Lions DL was horrendous. Our DT play was god awful. I expect the DL play to be better in 2020. So I’m expecting improvements.

My concern is lack of depth at DT. Sheldon goes down and we lack experience at NT.

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Great post Air. I totally agree. I think this defense needs predictable downs to work so they can bring pressure from all over.

We have nothing past Shelton, like we did with Harrison and if that role is not filled right this defense falls apart.

That is why I think another player will be added soon.

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Time to throw was too long in both years, regardless of the sack numbers. 2018 may have been better, but it’s also the year that made Trubisky and other scrubs look like legit QBs.

Pressure has to collapse the pocket and speed up the QB, which doesn’t necessarily end in a sack.

Flowers, Shelton, Hand, Williams, Julian, Collins and a blitzing ILB are part of the plan. Injury is already a concern with Hand. Julian is a rookie and it’s likely unreasonable to expect a lot. Talent is thin and a work in progress. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

Romeo and Bryant have not shown to be effective applying pressure.

I think we have to but …Let’s say we don’t.

Then Okudah struggles like a lot of rookie CB’s do.

Meanwhile Derrick Brown tears it up in Carolina.

Can you imagine the reaction by Lions fans?

I have to admit I’m disappointed in our approach to fixing the DL. On paper it appears to be the weakest link.

Yep. On paper we’re probably going to have room for one of Cornell, Strong or Atkins. The two that are cut will instantly be thought of as practice squad players without concern of their being scalped.

Even LB has more intriguing battles than that.

I have been a bit pessimistic here but it is worth it to maybe look at what guys have done before and think about what they can do again.

Look at it this way:
Romeo Okwara had 7 sacks in 2018.
Jarrad Davis had 6 sacks in 2018.
Jamie Collins had 7 sacks in 2019.
Flowers is at least a 7 sack guy but I am taking the over on him as I think he is a career season in Detroit…but I will keep his total at 7.

That right there is 34 sacks.

Okwara is the guy maybe who will have the toughest time getting to 7 sacks again as his PT might not be there. But if we combine Austin Bryant, Romeo Okwara and Julian Okwara and give them combined 10 sacks that seems reasonable to me. That would put the sack total UP to 37.

Then we get to the DL with Hand, Nick Williams, Danny Shelton and other younger guys (including Tavai) as well as secondary guys and yea, I can see a 45 sack team that can bring pressure from Collins, Jarrad Davis, Julian Okwara and our MLBer Tavai too. That is solid.

I can see what the Lions might be thinking if these guys stay healthy. That could be a solid group with a number of wild card guys like Austin Bryant, Da’Shawn Hand and so on.

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That’s the magic number to me … 45 should be the goal. Anything less and your average or below average and it’s hard to win with a below average pass rush.

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I’ll bet a 100 Patricia defense does get 45 sacks ?

KVB bit on every play action, misdirection that came his way. I always thought a 10 year vet should know how to contain. He drove me mad.


The Lions had 43 sacks in 2018.

Pressure is the key and I get that the Lions might finally be thinking they have the LBer talent to rush from four different spots now.

I am not taking any bets on sack numbers. But yea, I think the 2020 Lions are at least a 2 sack better team than the 2018 club.

Yep, he never saw a play that he couldn’t over run and lose containment.

What the heck is a “pass rush?” Are we going to try this in 2020?

I don’t think it will be an easy task with that DL. Especially the DT’s we have.

Thus club is better on the DL than we were in 2018 though. Harrison didn’t come until later in the season. Jamie Collins/Okwara is an upgrade over Kennard.

And our new LBers (including Collins) and a better scheme fit under Patricia. Jarrad Davis looked good when he rushed the passer in 201 and his explosiveness was gone in 2019 due to that late high ankle sprain.

If 43 2018 sacks is the base line I am taking the over in 2020. But no, I don’t bet through this web site.

I love your optimism.

But you were telling me last years DL was the strength of the defense too. I was agreeing last year with you for the most part.

I see it as a weakness this year. I’d gladly be wrong too but that DT rotation looks terrible.

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They SHOULD have been with a Pro Bowl Harrison and adding Pro Bowl level Mike Daniels. On paper those were solid positions/beliefs t hold in 2019. In reality Mike wasn’t healthy and Harrison wasn’t professional.

And I am talking about the 018 DL in this case…but we all thought that 2018 DL was going to be very good. And they SHOULD have been good. In addition to Daniels not being ready (and getting injured in the Cards game week one), Harrison’s effort was horrific and we also lost Da’Shawn Hand to injury as well as Okwara being injured and Flowers not being ready to go full speed due to off season surgery.

I keep keep coming back to a point I have made often:
This defensive scheme needs guys to play their roles more than being super stars.

We didn’t have healthy and in shape bodies in 2019 and that killed us. This DL is better than the 2018 club in my mind and I expect better results than 2018 and 2019.

This club doesn’t need one guy to have 15 sacks to be successful. We need 4-5 guys in the 5-8 sack area. From there a handful of guys in the 2-3 sack department and this defense might be off and running.

Here is the 5-8 sack club:
Flowers, Collins, Jarrad Davis and Okwara/Okwara/Austin Bryant. Seems like cheating but I am looking at unsure roles but guys playing an edge role. That should be 28+ sacks right there give or take.

Ther we add in the DL (Hand, Williams, Shelton) and other LBers (Tavai) and that is 8-10 sacks putting the team in striking distance of 45 sacks if we get a handful of sacks from the secondary and other guys not mentioned.

2019 simply sucked as high expectations were reasonable. But damn did those expectations come crashing down. So yes, tempering expectations is a Lions fan thing to do. I am looking at what this club did in 2018. I see better players here now and I expect more from this 2020 club.

Julian Okwara may be a really big wildcard as well as Austin Bryant.

Relying on injured players to return to form is huge, no doubt about it. Hand is key IMO. Given the moves made in FA and the draft I think we need to play a 3-4 most of the time, it limits the DT’s exposure. Given Snacks and Hands play in 2018 there was plenty of room for optimism last season, injuries to both exposed us.


I don’t think they’ll both make the team. Iexoect Bryant will be a cut. The Jack role is overloaded… someone will get kicked. In fact, iwoukdnt be surprised if Quinn doubled down given the new practice squad rules and gave a look-see to Clowney, placing Bryant on the PS with a designation protection.

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