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TIM AND MIKE: Is the NFL really a copycat league?

The Denver Broncos are sitting on top of the NFL, and deservedly so for the way their defense dominated the Carolina Panthers to win Super Bowl 50.

With the Super Bowl over, the focus shifts to the offseason. Primarily, that means getting ready for free agency and the draft.

As teams start making plans and shaping rosters for the 2016 season, the question for other teams – including the Detroit Lions – is whether they should try to copy the model that the Broncos used to win a championship.

In short, is the NFL really a copycat league? Or should teams find their own way to win?

Mike: I'd say it's some of both. The Broncos swept through the playoffs with a defense that ranks among the best of all time. They beat three high-scoring teams in the playoffs – Steelers and Patriots to reach the Super Bowl, then demolishing the Panthers to win the championship – and their defense proved that it deserves to be ranked among the best in history.

However, defense was only part of the Broncos' equation. On offense they won with Peyton Manning, who turns 40 next month, throwing two touchdown passes in the postseason, and without much of a running game to bail him out.

The bottom line for the Broncos is they built their team to win on defense, and they did it better than anybody else.

Tim: This is a copycat league, but teams have known for a long time that building on defense, and being good on that side of the football, is the best way to be a consistent winner. Denver's 2015 season is proof of that.

Think about it -- What other team has gone through as big a transformation in so little time as Denver? In 2013, they were an offensive juggernaut who rode that success all the way to the Super Bowl where they were completely dismantled by Seattle's No. 1 defense.

Following that loss, Denver spent big money acquiring defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward, completely revamping their team.

One year after reloading on defense, the Broncos were the league's top-ranked defense in 2015 and rode that wave to the Super Bowl. This time they did the dismantling of a top-tier offense in Carolina.

Lions GM Bob Quinn will look to build this team the same way, especially coming over from New England where the Patriots took a defensive player first in the draft eight out of the last 10 years.

He's got a great base to work with in Ziggy Ansah, DeAndre Levy, Darius Slay and Glover Quin. Add in defensive coordinator Teryl Austin returning, and I think this team is a few really good moves away from being a top-tier defense.

Mike: You mentioned four players on defense. That leaves some gaps, and they're big ones that have to be filled.

The unsung, and often unmentioned, part of Denver's defense is the strength they have on the interior. They push the pocket, and as mobile and strong as Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is, he had no place to scramble away from the pressure.

The Broncos got the outside pass rush from Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. They had an easier time getting to Newton because there was no place to escape up the middle.

The Lions had a good pass rush last year, with 43 sacks to tie Minnesota and Green Bay for seventh in the league. But the run defense fell from No. 1 overall, allowing 69.3 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry, to 19th with 113 yards per game and 4.2 yards per attempt.

This year's draft is projected to have strength and depth at defensive tackle. That's one place I'd look early in the draft for help.

Tim: This does appear to be a very strong class at defensive tackle. The position is a huge priority for the Lions this offseason. Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker, the team's top two tackles last season, are both free agents. Ngata is 32 and Walker is coming off a devastating leg injury. 

I'd put the need at defensive tackle right up at the top. It's right there with offensive tackle. Detroit needs to find a solution to the revolving door at right tackle the last few seasons. They need to solidify the right tackle spot, whether that's Riley Reiff moving over or someone else stepping in.

The real issues on offense for Detroit this past season mostly stemmed from the inconsistent play upfront. Simply put, they weren't good enough.

Am I wrong?

Mike: Nope. The scary thing is, we're thinking alike.

Whether it's draft or free agency, there's an equal need at defensive tackle, offensive tackle and linebacker. And there's nothing that says the Lions can't use the draft and free agency to get one of each.

And I'll add a fourth: running back. A young stud running back to team with Ameer Abdullah would upgrade that unit.

If that type of player were on the board when it's the Lions' turn to pick in the first round, it wouldn't bother me if they took a running back.

Your turn: am I wrong?

Tim: I hope you're wrong.

Someone would really have to sell me that Ezekiel Elliott is a once-in-a-decade player like Todd Gurley, and I'd need a whole lot of selling, because I don't see it.

I look at it this way. It doesn't matter who's running the football if there's no hole to run through.

The bigger issue is fixing and bolstering the offensive and defensive lines.

Running back at No. 16? That's a really tough sell.

If Calvin Johnson retires, I'd argue that receiver is the bigger need than running back anyway. Defensive tackle, offensive tackle, then receiver and linebacker tied for third.

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