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TWENTYMAN: 5 numbers that need to change

The Detroit Lions won 12 games in the regular season last year, won the NFC North title and advanced all the way to the NFC Championship Game where they fell to San Francisco, 34-31.

A lot went right for the Lions in 2023, but coaches and players are always looking for ways to get better. As the popular saying goes, if you're not getting better, you're getting worse.

Let's take a look at five numbers from last season the Lions can stand to improve if they're going to take the next step and advance to the franchise's first Super Bowl.

View some of the best photos from Detroit Lions offseason workouts, OTAs and minicamp.

1. Number: 247.4

What it means: Opponent passing yards per game

NFL rank: 27th

Twentyman: Lions general manager Brad Holmes knew this was the biggest weakness for the team last season and went to work revamping the secondary and adding some players upfront along the defensive line in hopes of being a much more consistent team defending the pass in 2024.

Opposing quarterbacks completed 69 passes of 20-plus yards last year against the Lions, which was the most allowed by any defense in the NFL last season. Opponents also racked up 209 passing first downs, the fourth most in the league.

Holmes and the Lions are hoping the additions of cornerback Carlton Davis III, cornerback Amik Robertson, cornerback Terrion Arnold, cornerback Ennis Rakestraw Jr., defensive lineman DJ Reader, edge rusher Marcus Davenport and others can contribute in making the defense much more consistent against the pass this upcoming season.

2. Number: 35

What it means: Total number of dropped passes

NFL rank: 28th

Twentyman: Pro Football Reference credited Lions pass catchers with dropping 35 total passes last season. Only the Los Angeles Rams (36), Dallas (38), Cleveland (42) and Kansas City (44) had more.

Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and running back Jahmyr Gibbs were credited with dropping eight passes apiece, which ranked in the bottom 10 of the NFL. St. Brown was targeted 164 times and Gibbs 71 times. That 11.3 percent drop rate for Gibbs was the second highest in the NFL last season.

3. Number: 66

What it means: Opponents scored a touchdown 66 percent of the time last season after entering the red zone

NFL rank: 29th

Twentyman: This is another area where Detroit has to be better defensively. Only Cleveland (71.4), Chicago (68.9) and Philadelphia (66.1) allowed red zone touchdowns at a higher clip. Opponents threw 20 touchdowns vs. just one interception in the red zone.

To put Detroit's 66 percent into a little perspective, the top three defenses limiting touchdowns in the red zone were Tennessee (37.7), Baltimore (40.8) and Tampa Bay (45.3).

4. Number: 23

What it means: Total giveaways for Lions' offense in 2023

NFL rank: 19th

Twentyman: Turnovers are the No. 1 statistic in football that determine win and losses. Detroit finished last season even in turnover differential with 23 giveaways and 23 takeaways. They'd certainly like to see that number creep into the positive this year. The Lions lost 11 fumbles (ranked 20th) and threw 12 interceptions (16th). In three of their five regular-season losses they recorded at least three giveaways in those contests.

5. Number: 41

What it means: Total number of sacks recorded by Lions' defense

NFL rank: T-23rd

Twentyman: Lions defensive coaches talk often about affecting the quarterback and how pressures can be just as effective as sacks. I agree with that to a degree, but there's no denying how impactful sacks can be to limiting scoring.

Last year, teams scored a touchdown or field goal 22.9 percent of the time when taking a sack on a drive. They scored a touchdown just 7.6 percent of the time on those drives. Sacks impact scoring. We know Aidan Hutchinson is going to get his, but can the Lions get significant contributions from one or two more players in the sack department in 2024?

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