Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes spent the offseason overhauling the team’s defense. Detroit ranked 28th in points allowed and dead last in yards allowed during the 2022 season.
A secondary that ranked 30th in passing yards allowed and 23rd in passing touchdowns allowed was revamped early in free agency. Cornerback Cam Sutton joins the roster on a three-year deal. Emmanuel Moseley signed a one-year contract as he returns from injury. Safety C.J. Gardner Johnson was a later free agent signing for the team. In the draft, Detroit traded up in the second round to land versatile Alabama defensive back Brian Branch. Branch projects to thrive as a slot corner for the team.
These additions take the Lions’ secondary from what might have been the team’s weakest position group to one of its strongest.
The other position of significant need for the Detroit Lions was interior defensive line. Unlike the secondary, Holmes was not a big spender at the position, and he waited until the late third round to address it in the draft.
Detroit ranked 29th in both rushing yards allowed and rushing touchdowns allowed. As the season wore on, the team showed improvement, but run defense was never a strength. Alim McNeil is the only bona fide starter from last year’s group. Returning with McNeil is Isaiah Buggs, Benito Jones and Levi Onwuzurike. Buggs and Jones have proven to be solid rotational players, but Onwuzurike has struggled to get his NFL career off the ground. Joining them is third-round pick Brodric Martin.
With McNeil as the only true starting caliber player in this group, interior defensive line could continue to be a weak spot for the Lions. A couple of undrafted free agents are not going to push the needle on improving the unit. However, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has positive things to say about his interior defensive line.
Aaron Glenn speaks on Detroit Lions’ defensive line
You coach the players you’ve got. You saw in the second half of the season how (Isaiah) Buggs played, how (Alim McNeill) Mac played,” Glenn said when talking with the media. “now going to get a guy of Brodric (Martin)’s size and length, and even some of these undrafted free agents that we got. I think these guys are going to help us also.”
Martin’s size is certainly an intriguing factor. Pro Football Focus compared the Western Kentucky product to a poor man’s Jordan Davis. McNeil is a player on the rise, and he could be in for a breakout season in 2023. At his best, Buggs is a replacement-level starter, but if Martin can tap into his potential, the pair could make for a solid rotational duo next to McNeil.
Glenn spoke on the importance of building the defensive scheme around the strengths of the players at his disposal. He said his job is to figure out what they do best and help them as much as possible. He believes this unit will be successful during the 2023 season.
“So, I have all the confidence in the world in the guys that we’ve got, and I do believe those guys will do a really great job,” Glenn said.
For more from the author, Thomas Chavez, check him out on Twitter here: @tlchavez43
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