NFC North Review-Part I: Defense needed in Detroit leading to draft

Michael Klein, News Editor

Now that the NFL 2012 season has ended, we can look toward next season. In a four-part series, each team’s offseason challenges will be explored. Our first look will be at the division’s worst.

After going an impressive 10-6 in 2011, the Detroit Lions were unable to realize their undeniable potential. The young squad regressed, dropping their last eight games and finishing with an abysmal 4-12 record.

The Lions have plenty of weapons on offense. Calvin Johnson broke the single season receiving yards record and was one of few highlights last year, as Detroit made its case for most disappointing team. Arguably the biggest problem Detroit has going forward, is their need for a strong voice in the locker room that can command authority. Knowing the rules of the game wouldn’t hurt either.

Jim Schwartz deserves credit for turning the organization around, but hasn’t seemed to help them turn the corner.

March 12 begins the NFL’s trade and free agent periods.

Defensively, the potential loss of key free agents in the secondary must be addressed by general manager Martin Mayhew. Defensively, the team has a slew of 2012 starters entering free agency including DeAndre Levy, sack leader Cliff Avril and talented yet oft-injured Louis Delmas. Considering the Lions are rumored, by many sources, as being over the cap, these potential losses could lead to major regression on defense.

Free agent right tackle Godser Cherilous started all 16 games while allowing only five sacks, according to Pro Football Weekly. He helped anchor the Lions front-line that ranked in the top 10 pass blocking units in football last season. Factoring in quarterback Matt Stafford’s NFL record 740 passes, Cherilous’ sacks allowed figure equates to only one per 148 pass attempts. Given the team’s propensity to throw, keeping Stafford upright is paramount. Signing the big man should be top priority.

Consequently, they will need a strong draft in April. Fortunately they hold strong position with picks five, 36 and 58. Detroit should look to deal their top selection and stack up mid-round picks in the first few rounds. Doing so, they can fill multiple needs and possibly acquire four or five starting caliber prospects.

The sixth worst defense allowed 27.3 ppg and needs to infuse talent. They can effectively bargain shop this April if they playtheir cards right. Nothing is imaginary about Manti Te’o’s game or on-the-field leadership, but his stock is freefalling in most experts’ mock drafts. The Irish LB was once a top five prospect and could be a steal for a desperate Lions front office.

Other early round prospects could also fill holes in the secondary, which lacks playmakers (T-23 Ints) and a high-ranked pass rush (their’s was ranked 20th). Recent mock drafts suggest Xavier Rhodes, a cornerback from Florida State and Alex Okafor may be available when Detroit is on the clock. Determined to find balance on offense, Marcus Lattimore could be a steal and a dynamic back if he heals from his horrific knee injury.


could be a piece or two from contending for the Super Bowl or a few bad breaks from having a repeat of 2012.

Draft Suggestions:

With three picks in first 36 can address line, linebackers and secondary.

Perhaps take a huge weight off the passing game by adding a dynamic back like Lattimore.

Alec Ogeltree, freefalling Manti Teo – butt of countless jokes but unspoken leader of Notre Dame.