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Lions’ Secondary Experiences Dramatic Improvement

In years past, this time of the year was devoted to draft research and speculation as the Lions played out the string.  Despite the Lions being in the thick of the playoff race, I have indulged in the guilty pleasure of very premature mock drafts.

While checking out some of the Lions’ projected picks, I noticed a fair number of sites projecting a cornerback to the Lions with some comments about “upgrading their mediocre secondary.”  Now, the first rule of premature mock drafts is don’t take them too seriously, but I did bristle at the blatant falseness of those statements.  I am not sure if the secondary is being overlooked due to guilt by association with past Lions’ pass defenses, but they are by far and away not mediocre this season.

Here is a brief game by game breakdown for the first 13 games:


Opponent Net Passing Yards Average Yards Per Pass Play
@ TB 259 5.4
KC 116 4.6
@ Min 189 4.7
@ Dal 321 6.7
Chi 237 5.8
SF 111 3.3
Atl 199 5.2
@ Den 117 2.5
@Chi 107 4.9
Car 272 7.0
GB 296 8.5
@ NO 338 8.9
Min 156 3.2

The Lions have surrendered less than 200 yards passing in seven of 13 games and less than 6 yards per pass play in nine games.  In the pass happy NFL, those numbers are outstanding, especially considering NFL teams are averaging 229.4 yards passing per game and 6.3 yards per pass play (counting sacks) as of today.

The numbers would probably be more impressive if not for the last three weeks when the Lions’ secondary has been so beat up that they were playing WR Rashied Davis in the slot on defense.

Just to illustrate how far the secondary (and pass defense as a whole) has come, check out these numbers:

Year Comp Att Comp % Yards Yards per Game Avg per Att Avg per Comp TD Int Sacks Opp QB Rating
2007 422 602 70.10% 4131 258.2 6.86 9.79 32 17 37 96.8
2008 303 443 68.40% 3716 232.3 8.39 12.26 25 4 30 110.9
2009 371 545 68.07% 4249 265.6 7.80 11.45 35 9 26 107
2010 330 518 63.71% 3498 218.6 6.75 10.60 23 14 44 89.2
2011 285 467 61.03% 2718 209.1 5.82 9.54 18 18 35 76.1

Now, keep in mind the 2011 totals are for 13 games, but look at the dramatic improvement over the past several seasons.  The Lions are allowing the lowest completion percentage in five years, fewest yards per game, per attempt and per completion along with more interceptions and a quarterback rating 13 points lower than their next lowest allowed.

I understand that the Lions’ pass defense was historically bad a few seasons ago, so even getting to the middle of the road would look impressive compared to a few years ago.  However, the Lions aren’t middle of the road.  They are in the top 10 and even top five in most statistical pass defense categories this year.

Just think about that, the Lions went from literally one of the worst pass defenses in modern NFL history to a top 10 unit after three offseasons under Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz.

So I leave you with this bit of advice, if and when you read anything talking about a mediocre Lions’ secondary, feel free to drop some knowledge in the comments section.

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