Old Mother Hubbard: The Defense

>> 4.15.2011

Now that the Old Mother Hubbarding of the defense is complete, I decided to make a little visualization of the overall quality of the defense. Again, this is based ENTIRELY Pro Football Focus’s overall player grades, and all of the previous disclaimers apply: secondary grades are of unverified voracity, penalties are weighted more heavily than I’d like, and consistently above average play grades out much higher than a “home run hitter.”

Yes, I know there are 12 squares. Modern NFL defenses use nickel as much as they use base, so third corner is just as much of a “starter” as third linebacker. Second, the main color of each square, the inside, represents the Lions’ current projected starter, as best I can figure. The outline of each square represents the second string/top rotational player. Color gradients correspond to one-half of one standard deviation (I’ll call these “tiers”).

The first thing that strikes you is Cliff Avril, in the third positive tier—the only Lion defender to grade out so strongly. Second, both of the starting defensive tackles are in the first tier above average. Corey Williams would have been in the third or fourth positive if not for his hellacious penalty grade! Suh’s PFF grades have been discussed at length, suffice to say he was inconsistent both play-to-play and game-to-game. You see the strong play of Sammie Hill and Lawrence Jackson as the green outlines on the right side of the line.

The only defender in the back seven to be binned in a positive tier was S Amari Spievey, in the first. After that . . . it’s not pretty. Even keeping in mind the grading questions for the secondary, and the low snap counts for all of the OLB (who rotated like crazy), things just don’t look good. Delmas, of course, was hampered with a groin injury all season.


  • An impact two-way defensive end to rotate soon, and develop for 2012.
  • A credible backup middle linebacker.
  • An athletic, pass-rushing OLB ready to start right away.
  • An athletic, pass-rushing OLB to rotate soon, and develop for 2012.
  • An athletic cover corner, ready to take over one side in 2012.
  • If Chris Houston leaves, a complete two-way corner, ready to start right away.

Next up, offense . . .

Technorati Tags: detroit lions,nfl,defense,team needs,nfl draft


sJe,  April 15, 2011 at 3:34 PM  

Do you really think "pass rushing" is a top quality we need in our outside linebackers? I don't.

NorthLeft12,  April 15, 2011 at 4:56 PM  

I agree with sJe, I really don't see the need to emphasize pass rushing from our LBs. I would like to see guys that are good cover and solid run stoppers. Pass rushing is last and way down the list.
I don't necessarily agree with the athletic tag either. I would take Mason Foster over almost any other LB and I have not heard anyone call Foster athletic. What he is, is smart, tough, steady, reliable, versatile, and incredibly productive. Something this defence needs from the LB group.

Ty,  April 15, 2011 at 5:09 PM  

sJe, NorthLeft12--

The reason I put "pass rushing" in there is because it's really the only way a 4-3 OLB can have a major impact. If we just want smart, tough guys who won't make big mistakes . . . well, we've got a couple of those.

I worry about the guys who are ONLY smart, tough, steady, reliable, and versatile in college. Without significant size, athleticism, or pass-rush ability, those guys tend to be career backups and special teamers in the NFL. Jordon Dizon was the picture of smart, tough, steady, reliable, and productive, and he's likely out of the picture. I thought Greg Jones was going to be a nice fit for us, but he looked outclassed at the Senior Bowl . . . now I'm very worried for his NFL future.


Anonymous,  April 16, 2011 at 7:40 AM  

"unverified voracity", lol. A nod to mgoblog, or typo?


Tim in AZ,  April 16, 2011 at 4:48 PM  

What a cool way to graphically represent the strengths and weaknesses of the D as they function as a unit. Why was the box around Levy black, because there was essentially no back-up? It would be really great to do this graphic again after the draft and free agency. I know there are no PFF grades for incoming rookies, but for free agents this would be available. If the rookies were shown in black and the whole thing was shown side by side with this graphic we could really see the improvement... hopefully.

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