Detroit Lions vs. New York Jets: What Are Experts Saying About Detroit?
The Detroit Lions head to the Big Apple to take on the New York Jets this weekend. The matchup promises to feature some serious defensive talent, and there's plenty of expert discussion around the top two rushing defenses.
But are these media types—and maybe even a player or two—correct in their assessments?
There's only one way to find out. Click through to find out what they said and whether they hit the mark.
Detroit has the No. 1 defense. You've probably read it at least 17 times already, but it's going to take some getting used to.
Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com writes that while the defensive line and linebackers deserve credit, it takes a collective effort to put on this type of performance:
Granted the front four have been dominant. The linebackers have been really good, too. But pass defense all works together. The front seven has eight sacks because there’s been no place to the throw the ball. The secondary has benefitted [sic] from a stout pass rush that’s made playing quarterback against the Lions hazardous to their health.
There's no doubting this analysis. Especially when he goes on to back it up by mentioning that Detroit hasn't allowed a pass longer than 24 yards and has only given up three touchdown passes.
And Aaron Rodgers' lone touchdown strike was well-challenged by safety Isa Abdul-Quddus. He's been a solid stand-in for starter James Ihedigbo and is surely bolstered by a pair of cornerbacks who rank in the Top 31, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), with Darius Slay checking in at No. 6.
It's unlikely many in the national media will realize how improved this secondary is until it's too late. That sits just fine with the Lions.
The Jets also boast a defense that's receiving high grades. In fact, New York has the second-best defense in terms of yardage allowed, although the Jets are giving up 24 more yards per contest than Detroit.
The Lions, meanwhile, haven't been able to move the ball on the ground with any sustained success. And as Kyle Meinke of MLive.com previews, the sledding will be quite tough against the stingiest rushing defense in the league:
That could be a nasty little matchup for the Lions. The only real signs of life from their run game was Reggie Bush's 26-yard touchdown run against Green Bay. Somebody, check their pulse.
The Lions are averaging just 3.0 yards per attempt, which is second-worst in the league. Joique Bell has 40 carries for 120 yards, one touchdown, two fumbles -- and that's a team best. Gotta be better, especially against a team that knows a thing or two about shutting down the pass.
I can't quibble with his concern. He has his finger in the wound of every Lions fan's psyche because Detroit's offensive line is going to have a tough time moving Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson.
But the last sentence about New York "know[ing] a thing or two about shutting down the pass" is presumptuous.
Yes, the Jets have given up the ninth-least amount of yards passing. However, that stat—as is often the case—is deceiving.
New York has given up seven touchdowns, which is one less than the league's worst mark. The Jets are also one of six teams that have yet to record an interception, and they are allowing opposing quarterbacks to post a 98.5 quarterback rating.
Points, a lack of turnovers and a high quarterback rating trump yards every time.
No End in Sight
Rookie Eric Ebron leads Detroit tight ends with eight targets. As a whole, the group has as many targets (17) as Reggie Bush.
That's a poor return for such a heavy investment, both financially and in the draft. Yet, Joseph Fauria told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that outsiders shouldn't jump to conclusions.
I think we have three guys that can be (No. 1) guys anywhere in myself and Ebron (and) 'Grew's our guy now," he said. "He's a former All-Pro, he's still an All-Pro to me, and we work off him.
"We're still learning the offense. It's only our third game playing in the offense, I think there's more balls that are going to be thrown to us for games to come.
There were six games, including two playoff contests, that New Orleans Saint Jimmy Graham received six targets or less. We can all agree that he is one of the biggest mismatches in the league.
However, the Saints don't force the ball to him. And offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi hails from that system.
As Birkett pointed out, the right tackle injuries have forced Lombardi to utilize the trio in more blocking-heavy roles. If LaAdrian Waddle does return, it will give the Lions more freedom to let the big pass-catchers roam the middle of the field.
Fauria is right that Week 4 isn't nearly enough time to judge an offense. The Lions want Matthew Stafford to spread the ball around and hit the open man. Sometime soon that will include this talented trio of pass-catchers.
Back to the Future
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPN New York. In that role, he wrote an article listing the six Detroit players Jets fans need to know ahead of Sunday's contest, and Reggie Bush was included.
That's not newsworthy, but his take on Bush might be. Judge for yourself:
The Jets got into a war of words with Bush in 2012, when Rex Ryan said before a game his defense needed to pour "hot sauce" on him. Ryan meant it as a compliment -- or so he said -- but Bush didn't take it that way. He accused the Jets of trying to hurt him, going so far as to suggest it was karmic justice that Darrelle Revis suffered a season-ending knee injury in the game. These days, Bush is a change-of-pace back. He was a non-factor in the first two games, but finished last week with 99 yards from scrimmage, including a game-clinching, 26-yard touchdown run. He's still dangerous in space.
He's right that Bush wasn't very relevant for a couple weeks. He's wrong in characterizing Bush as a change-of-pace back.
The tape demands that people see him in a different light. Bush has been hitting the hole with ferocity and driving the pile. In fact, he's been doing it often, and I'm not the only one who's noticed.
That 7-yarder was the best Reggie Bush run I've seen this year. Put his head down and hit the hole.— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) September 21, 2014
I understand that Bell has 13 more attempts thus far, but that probably has to do with Bush's knee bothering him. If anything, Detroit doesn't have a feature back and prefers the committee approach.
When Detroit signed him, I said on my podcast that I thought he should be used as a complementary piece. Bush has shown he can be the guy who bangs between the tackles as well as bounces it outside, and he has his 1,000-yard 2013 campaign to prove it.
As always, I save the best for last—Bleacher Report.
Gary Davenport rounds up 16 of Bleacher Report's best every week to get their predictions for the coming weekend. In the Week 4 version, 14 picked Detroit, but not AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz, who explained:
The New York Jets have lost two straight, but they've been competitive in both. The Detroit Lions still love to throw the ball, which will only give that vicious front four of the Jets more opportunities to tee off on Matthew Stafford. If Geno Smith can avoid dumb mistakes (and that's a big if), the Jets can pull off an upset at home.
Frenz has a much more intimate understanding of the Jets than I do considering he covers them as a part of his four-team beat. And the numbers back him up considering the Jets are the top team in the league in terms of sacks.
I'm also willing to take his lead that this game will come down to mistakes and turnovers. Both teams have a negative turnover ratio, with Detroit checking in at negative-two and New York at negative-three.
But Smith will have to do more than just avoid mistakes to put up points. Eric Decker is the only real playmaking threat in the passing game, which is probably the reason the Jets are 20th in terms of scoring offense.
That's all of a preview I'm willing to give right now. Look for my complete breakdown Friday morning.
Brandon Alisoglu is a Detroit Lions Featured Columnist who has written about the Lions on multiple sites. He also co-hosts a Lions-centric podcast, Lions Central Radio. Yell at him on Twitter about how wrong he is @BrandonAlisoglu.