last week, Detroit Lions General Manager Brad Holmes and Assistant General Manager Ray Agnew He gave a rosy look to the team’s defense. Although Detroit allowed for the second-highest number of points last season, some planning and personnel changes, along with a strong coaching staff, have made many inside the building believe that a huge leap could occur in 2022 for this unit.
But that sentiment isn’t shared by Mike Clay, ESPN’s stat-heavy forecaster. Sunday, Clay Dropped a huge preview article for the 2022 season, showing the best and worst units in the NFL, along with its strength ratings based on a statistical model from its creation. Safe to say, Black is hoping the Clay model will need some overhauling next year.
Most of all, Clay expects the Lions to be the worst offender in the league, predicting Detroit will allow 445 points this season after allowing 467 last year.
“Things may not be much better this season, as the defense has weaknesses throughout the squad, which have been exacerbated by the injuries of Romeo Okwara, Jerry Jacobs and rookie Josh Paschal,” Clay wrote.
At the end of his article, he provides ratings for each unit, and it really highlights where Clay believes the weaknesses lie in this defense. It ranks the inner defensive line (29), linebackers (32) and linebackers (31) as being five units down, while the edge defenders (Position 21) and safety (Post 26) aren’t much better.
To be fair to Clay, those bottom five positions were the ones we all highlighted a month or two ago as the top reasons to worry about defense. The defensive inside may struggle with Levi Onozuriki’s injuries and Michael Brookers’ dwindling play. We all agreed that this team was the biggest weakness on the list, and very likely the worst support unit in the league. There were far more questions than answers in Buck’s Corner.
But the training camp and pre-season preparations changed views a bit domestically. Alim McNeill looks pretty good, and Detroit has added some inside pieces (Isaiah Buggs, Benito Jones) to help power the run. Malcolm Rodriguez looks like a future star at linebacker, while Derek Barnes has shown signs of a leap year to two. Jeff Okuda decisively won a primary job, asking some questions about his rehabilitation from a torn Achilles.
So, didn’t Clay factor in this shift in expectations, or did boot camp and training ignore some serious concerns about this Detroit defense? The answer will likely be in the middle.
Aggressively speaking, Clay’s outlook isn’t much better. Last year, the Lions finished 25th in scoring. This year, Clay’s Team Lions ranked 23rd in the league. Detroit was hurt by Clay’s rating of Jared Gough (28), surprisingly low on the team’s receiving team (19). However, the team’s offensive line ranked fourth and tenth in the tight final group.
Put it all together, and Clay’s strength ratings will push Black into 27th, just barely out of the bottom five.
What do you think of Clay’s predictions? Too dreary or an important dose of reality as we head into game week?