LIONS INSIDER

Twentyman: With all hands on deck, Lions' defense expects to stay in the top 10

Posted Oct 17, 2012

If the Lions have their full compliment of players in the secondary again this week, we'll learn a lot more about the true impact that might have for this defense moving forward.

A quick glance through the Lions statistics might leave some people scratching their head when they see that the Lions rank No. 2 in total offense and No. 9 in total defense in the NFL, yet sport a 2-3 record.

What gives?

Special teams can claim a share of the blame, certainly. So can the offenses inability to score touchdowns at times after accumulating all those yards. Slow starts have also plagued them, as well as penalties.

The 49ers and Titans, in particular, exploited an undermanned Lions secondary, too.

  • The Lions had no answer for 49ers tight end Vernon Davis and some of their other passing weapons in a Week 2 loss without safety Louis Delmas or cornerback Chris Houston, who missed that game due to injury.
  • The Titans hit the Lions for two big plays in the passing game as a result of missed tackles and poor positioning in the secondary in a Week 3 loss, also without Delmas.

Sunday’s win in Philadelphia was the first time the Lions have had nearly their full compliment of players in the secondary – minus cornerback Drayton Florence, who’s in short-term injured reserve.

“I think the way the season’s gone, people haven’t really given the defense any credit,” said Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. “We’ve given up eight touchdowns, one in the rush, and we’ve played under-manned.

“I think each game that we’ve played, we’ve had a different secondary. In this game, we went out there with pretty much the guys we thought we were going to have at safety with (Amari) Spievey and Delmas and Chris, and even (Jacob) Lacey – Lacey is a very underrated player.

“We had all three linebackers. The only guy we really missed – and I bet the Eagles were really glad he wasn’t there – is Corey Williams, because if we had a rotation of four inside, we might have been even a little bit better.”

Delmas’ return from Aug. 7 knee surgery showed immediate dividends Sunday and Houston has played terrific since returning Week 3 from an ankle injury. That’s a nice combination on one side of the field.

On the other side, safety Amari Spievey began the season is a reserve role but earned a starting spot Sunday based on performance from extended playing time the previous couple games.

The Lions are still trying to find the consistency they had at right cornerback with Eric Wright last year, and continue to shuffle between veteran Lacey and rookie Bill Bentley. Both players left Sunday’s game with injuries, but were playing well before they left. That's still a position with some question marks moving forward.

“We counted out 15 hits, nine pressures,10 tackles for loss in the running game, three sacks, three turnovers – that’s a pretty good day at the office,” Cunningham said of Sunday’s defensive performance. “It was by far our best effort here this year, but it was probably right up there – one or two – since Jim and the rest of us have been here.”

The availability of both Lacey (concussion) and Bentley (shoulder) for Monday's game in Chicago is still in doubt; but, if they play, and the Lions have their full compliment of players in the secondary again this week, we'll learn a lot more about the true impact that might have for this defense moving forward.