Changes are coming to the Lions' defense, which can't possibly can't get any worse. The specifics remain to be seen, but Dan Campbell said Tuesday the Lions have to "calm some things down, go back to the basics and shake up our roster a little bit."
"We’re talking right now about some trust issues: Are you going to be where you’re supposed to be? Can I trust that you’re going to be there and make this call?" Campbell said Tuesday on the Stoney & Jansen Show. "So a little trust, a little FBI (football intelligence) and a little bit of dog. We’re going to inject some of that into our defense and that can go a long way for us."
This might help, too: a trip to New England on Sunday to play third-string rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe and the Patriots, whose offense hasn't exactly lit the world on fire under the direction of former Lions head coach Matt Patricia, whose defenses were continually on fire in Detroit. The Patriots are 1-3, though they did produce 50 points in their last two games, including an overtime loss last week to the Packers. And here's what might help them: hosting the worst defense in the NFL.
"They’re gonna play the long game with you," Campbell said. "They’re gonna try to ground it out and chew up the clock, play good defense. Offensively, they’re going to be select. I think Coach Patricia has done a pretty good job over there. You can see him getting better every week and adapting. And if he’s watching our tape from last week, there’s a number of things he’s going to try to attack – or I would. So those are things we gotta be ready for.
"If we allow them to just pound it out and be efficient and get first downs and quick screens, that’s the game we don’t want to play with them. We have to get off the field."
After being gutted last week by Geno Smith and the Seahawks, the Lions have surrendered the most yards and the most points in the NFL. Which is a bummer, because they've also gained the most yards and scored the most points in the NFL and have a record of 1-3 to show for it. The defense also ranks last in third down percentage, red zone percentage, first downs allowed and a whole mess of other categories. Even under Patricia, it never collapsed like this.
Under defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, the Lions want to be aggressive. They changed schemes this year to cause more havoc up front. It hasn't worked. Despite blitzing at one of the highest rates in the NFL, the Lions rank in the middle of the pack in pressure rate. They've been hampered by the absences of their last two second-round picks Levi Onwuzurike and Josh Paschal, defensive linemen who were supposed to boost the team's interior pass rush.
"I don’t think hampered would be the right word," said Campbell. "We’ve got plenty of guys here. We moved (Alim McNeill) to 3-tech and (Isaiah) Buggs has gotten in there and done some good things for us. It’s just a different style that we’re playing right now."
On the bright side, the Lions plan to activate Paschal this week, though Campbell noted it will likely be another "two or three weeks" before he's ready to play. Paschal has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list after offseason surgery for a sports hernia. Campbell said the Lions will also take a longer look at defensive linemen Demetrius Taylor, the undrafted rookie from Appalachian State who made a strong impression in training camp. They need more players who can get through gaps up front.
"See if he can help us out there a little bit," said Campbell. "Look, I’m charged with making the most of what we have available to us, and we’ve got plenty available to us. We’ve good enough players in that room, I really believe that. We gotta change what we’re doing a little bit, allow them to play fast and then we gotta get players in there that we can trust and that their teammates can trust."
And if all else fails, the Lions might have Patricia to bail them out.