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TWENTYMAN: 5 areas to improve

The Detroit Lions are on a bye this week. That gives head coach Dan Campbell and his coaching staff an opportunity to take a deep dive into the tape of the first eight games to try and find ways to help this team have more success the final nine games of the season.

"I'll be crunching the tape," Campbell said of his bye week plans. "I'll be grinding looking at things, go back and look at these first eight weeks and all three phases, just see if I can find some hidden nuggets, hidden gems, what we can do better.

"My staff is looking at all of our self-scouting, what we are. What's a snapshot of what we do well, what we don't do well? How about our personnel? Would we be better suited to move a few guys around and put them in a different spot?"

It certainly wasn't all bad for Detroit the first two months of the season, but there are areas that need immediate improvement.

Here's a look at five areas in particular where the Lions need to be better the second half of the season:


The basic principle of football is to score more points than you allow.

Detroit's defense has allowed 230 points to opposing offenses this year, which ranks 30th in the NFL. Only Miami (231) and Houston (241) have allowed more.

Opposing offenses have had 83 drives against the Lions' defense in eight games. They've scored a touchdown on 25 of those and made a field goal on 18. That's 43 of 83 drives (51.8 percent) resulting in points, which is the highest percentage in the NFL.

It would be one thing if Detroit was allowing a lot of points but scoring at a high clip too, but that has not been the case. Detroit's averaging just 16.8 points per game, which ranks 29th and is nearly seven points lower than the league average of 23.5.

The Lions have to find a better scoring balance on both sides of the ball.


Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn talked about the red-zone defense being an issue a couple weeks ago. They have since dedicated more film study and extra practice time in the red zone the last couple weeks. It's an area he knows his unit has to be better at moving forward.

Opponents have scored a touchdown 20 of the 24 times they've reached the red zone this season. That's an 83.3 percent success rate. The league average is 61.2 percent. Opponents are a perfect 15-for-15 scoring touchdowns when they get into goal-to-go situations against Detroit's defense, and they're converting on third down in the red zone 69.2 percent on the time, which is the highest percentage in the league.

It's one thing to allow a lot of yards if a defense then tightens up some in the red zone to force field goals, but that hasn't happened enough for Detroit through the first eight weeks.

Offensively, Detroit's struggled in the red zone as well. They score a touchdown just 50 percent of the time they reach inside the opponent 20-yard line, and their successful play percentage in the red zone is just 37.3 percent, per STATS INC., which ranks 31st.


There were question marks surrounding Detroit's receiving corps dating back to the spring and it only intensified when Breshad Perriman, who was signed to be Detroit's No. 2 receiver behind Tyrell Williams, had an unproductive training camp and preseason and was ultimately released.

Williams suffered a concussion Week 1 that hasn't allowed him to return to action, so Detroit's been down to their reserve options, and unsurprisingly, the production has been inconsistent.

Seven Lions receivers have combined to catch 83 passes for 923 yards and just four touchdowns in eight games. To put that in a little bit of context, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has 63 grabs for 924 yards and 10 touchdowns on his own to lead the league in two of the three categories (yards and touchdowns).

Detroit's coming off a game against the Eagles last Sunday where only rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown caught a pass from the wide receiver position.

Campbell said the Lions will try to get St. Brown, who has 27 catches and 250 yards with no touchdowns on the year, more involved moving forward. Hopefully Williams is able to make it back sometime in the second half of the season, which would help, but the Lions need a lot more from that unit overall.


The run game was something Campbell thought would be a strength of the offense heading into the season. It was pretty good to begin the year, but opponents have loaded up on the run because of Detroit's deficiencies in the pass game, and it's started to have an effect on the Lions' ability to run the ball consistently.

Through eight games, Detroit's averaging 93.1 rushing yards per game, which ranks 25th in the NFL. The fact that Detroit has trailed by double digits in the second half of all but one contest this year and has subsequently had to abandon the run for long stretches trying to get back into game is a contributing factor, but Detroit's failed to reach 100 rushing yards in half of their games this year.

The 4.1 yards per carry average for Detroit isn't too bad (ranked 20th), but they just haven't been able to use their run game as a desired weapon. Losing Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow and not having left tackle Taylor Decker at all to start the season due to a finger injury hasn't helped, but Detroit needs to find a way to run the ball more consistently and keep games close enough to be able to lean on the run game and use it as a weapon.


We discussed the limitations Lions quarterback Jared Goff has at the receiver position, and that's tough to overcome when teams start to focus their attention to his top weapons in the passing game – tight end T.J. Hockenson and running D’Andre Swift – but part of the job of being an NFL quarterback is to elevate the play of the players around them.

Goff is graded 26th in passing among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts on the year by Pro Football Focus. His intended air yards per attempt, which is the average depth of a target, completed or incomplete, is just 6.1 yards, which is last of the 33 qualifying quarterbacks by Pro Football Reference. Again, that number speaks to limitations the Lions have at receiver, with Hockenson (48) and Swift (46) being the team's leading pass catchers.

Goff's fumbled seven times this year and lost four. Combined with his six interceptions, his 10 turnovers are more than his eight touchdowns.

Goff's top 10 in the NFL with 1,995 passing yards on the year, but Detroit needs to find a way to put players in a better position to help him, and when they do, Goff's got to convert on more of those opportunities.

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