It's December and that means that draft fever is in full swing, at least in Detroit.
Philip Zaroo had an interesting article on MLive.com today that discussed a question many Lion's fans seem to have. What is the biggest need for this team?
The Lions have numerous holes that are well documented and easy to see. It doesn't take a football expert to realize they are near the bottom of the league at scoring points, stopping the run, stopping the pass, field position, and the list goes on.
For years now, Jeff Backus has been the focal point of Lions fan hatred. Jeff "Sackus" he is affectionately referred to, and rightly so. He is not an elite left tackle, he's not as awful as he's made out to be either. It seems that either you have an elite left tackle, or you want one. Point being, Backus is "service-able". That's code for, we would love to upgrade him, but unfortunately, we have bigger fish to fry.
The defense has been the true achilles heel for this team for some time. They rank near the bottom in every statistical category. They do generate a modest amount of turn-overs and sacks, but they give up so many yards and points that it's irrelevant.
You can blame the poor scoring defense on field position and claim the offense needs fewer three-and-outs, but that doesn't excuse the fact the Lions give up ridiculous amounts of yards and can't get off the field on third down. Is that because of the offense? Not likely, although Stephen Petermen could be blamed for a touchdown run, right?
The truth is that the defense has major issues in the front four and the back four.
If you haven't read the article above, I would suggest doing so. It describes the debate about whether a corner back or defensive end would help more, Reggie White or Deion Sanders are the examples.
The answer to the question, and to the question of what the biggest need is, is obvious to me.
The linebacker core is pretty good with this team, but they are the only unit that is solid. Because of this, the Lions are forced to blitz the backers to get pressure on the opposing team. When the Lions blitz players, this creates a hot read. An NFL quarterback will instantly throw to his read if needed.
Cornerbacks are not responsible for hot read routes the vast majority of the time. Why do you think opposing tight ends have career days against the Lions? Hot reads are routes that go directly to the void that is left by a blitzing player. Crossing routes over the middle, running backs out of the backfield, tight ends over the middle, these are the type of routes that are usually considered hot reads.
Bringing in the best corner back in league history wouldn't change much; it would take away one player.
The Lions defense is bad at defending the rush and the pass. It struggles to get pressure with only four men.
A defensive end can solve both problems. A good defensive end will have an impact on the entire defense. They have the ability to get a timely sack, apply consistent pressure, and get a tackle for loss. They also reduce the need for blitzes.
This allows linebackers to drop into the underneath zone and read plays. Being able to drop more men into coverage helps the pass defense, last I checked.
Ask yourself this question: Who scares you the most on the opposing defense? Jared Allen, Demarcus Ware, Julius Peppers, and Mario Williams come to mind for me. Along with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Either way, a corner never scares anyone.
Another great way to look at things, what one thing do the Lions struggle with on offense? They allow too much pressure from a four- or three-man rush. We never are concerned with which corner is guarding Calvin Johnson; we worry about the big stud at defensive end that is going to wreak havoc on our offense.
The Lions need a player(s) that can effect the run and pass defense.
The question: What is the biggest need?
The answer: A stud defensive end.