The Lions’ victory over the Chargers was yet another tangible sign of a deep postseason run.
The Lions have plenty of talent and perhaps even more competitive character.
The obvious question mark is whether they are strong enough defensively.
And San Francisco, after acquiring defensive edge Chase Young for a compensatory third-round draft pick at the NFL trade deadline, was even more impressive while thrashing Jacksonville on the road.
San Francisco, despite the presence of one the NFL’s great edge defenders, Nick Bosa, had a terrible pass rush before noticeably improving at Jacksonville.
The Lions easily could have topped the 49ers’ trade offer to the Commanders. Detroit holds two third-rounders in 2024, Minnesota’s from the T.J. Hockenson trade and its own.
Young didn’t light up the stat sheet at Jacksonville, but he was efficient. He had a half-a-sack with two QB hits.
Young and Bosa each had four QB pressures.
Jaguars’ QB Trevor Lawrence, who bested the Chargers’ Justin Herbert in the playoffs last season, was held to just 185 yards passing. Herbert scorched the Lions’ defense, particularly in the second half. The Lions are lacking man-to-man coverage players in the secondary, and Aidan Hutchinson is their only big-time pass rusher. That may change when James Houston returns, but he is strictly a situational player. Young is a three-down talent.
Most of the Lions’ primary foes in the NFC added veteran players at the trade deadline. Philadelphia picked up an outstanding safety in Kevin Byard. Seattle added a solid interior defensive lineman in Leonard Williams.
This doesn’t mean general manager Brad Holmes was wrong to stand pat. It’s only been in recent years the NFL trade deadline has taken on expanded importance. A third-round draft pick holds far more value in the NFL than other sports.
There are some concerns about Young’s durability. Could be he is just a rental player given his contract status (fifth-year team option on his rookie deal).
The Lions were in a unique position with two third-round selections, as well as their first- and second-rounders.
The Lions had two third-round selections in the 2023 draft and selected developmental QB Hendon Hooker and D-tackle Brodric Martin. Their third-round pick in 2022, safety Kerby Joseph, starts. While he has had his share of interceptions (6 in roughly a season-and-a-half), he has poor pass coverage metrics this season.
The Lions had two third-round choices in Holmes’ first draft. Alim McNeill has transitioned very well into a three-technique interior linemen, playing at nearly an elite all-around level. Safety Ifeatu Melifonwu is not a starter, but has held his own when called upon in ‘23.
There has been a lot of discussion about how the Lions were wise not to mess with an excellent team culture, but truth is their defense is below top NFL teams in regard to talent.
They either must bring pressure and expose their secondary, or drop into coverage, try to get home on base packages and risk getting picked apart.
Bringing pressure has proven to be the answer against lesser QBs, but it’s a double-edged sword that cuts bad both ways against top signal callers.
There is a growing mantra in this town: “In Brad Holmes We Trust.”
It’s understood why. He has done an excellent job of building a contending team in a short period of time despite trying circumstances.
But can he get the Lions over the top? We’re about to see what passing on Chase Young reveals, one way or another.