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.
THE COMPLETE DEFENSIVE NEEDS SHOPPING LIST:
- 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 . . .