Recently, we delved into five numbers that need to change for the Lions to play more consistent, winning football in 2019.
It wasn’t all bad for the Lions in 2018, however. They didn’t win as many games as they might have liked, but there were some positives.
Here’s a look at five numbers that need to stay the same or continue to improve to help the Lions take the next step in 2019:
1. Number: 5.43
What it means: Yards per carry registered by running back Kerryon Johnson
NFL rank: 2nd in NFL
Twentyman: Detroit’s second-round pick in 2018 made an immediate impact, finishing second in the NFL behind Green Bay’s Aaron Jones (5.47) in rushing average. Johnson produced multiple 100-yard rushing performances after the team had gone more than four seasons without having a single one.
He produced six games with 85 or more total yards from scrimmage, tied for third most among rookies.
Losing six games to a knee injury obviously raises questions about his durability, but Johnson is confident that was just a hiccup. He expects to be healthy and productive in Darrell Bevell’s offense.
View the best photos from 2019 Detroit Lions minicamp.
2. Number: 38.7
What it means: The percentage of yards gained after the catch from an opponent's total passing yards
NFL rank: 1st in NFL
Twentyman: This is a statistic that relates to tackling on defense. Detroit was a very good tackling team last season. The 1,509 yards after catch allowed by Detroit’s defense was the fewest in the league last season.
To put their percentage number in a little bit of context, the league average was 47 percent and the 12 playoff teams averaged 44.9 percent.
Tackling well is a hallmark of a good defense.
3. Number: 3.76
What it means: The average yards per rush allowed by the Lions' defense the second half of the season.
NFL rank: 2nd in the NFC
Twentyman: Acquiring defensive tackle Damon Harrison Sr. in a midseason trade played a factor in this total, but it wasn’t the only factor. A number of players in the front seven started playing much better football the second half of the year, and this became a real positive on that side of the ball.
In Weeks 8-17, Detroit allowed 925 rushing yards, the fourth fewest in the NFC over that span. They surrendered 20 rushes of 10-plus yards on 246 attempts. That 8.1 percent average was tops in the NFL over that span.
Of the 403 rushes the Lions faced in all of 2018, 164 were for four yards or more. That was good for the fifth best percentage in the NFL over the course of the whole year.
4. Number: 19
What it means: Total number of giveaways by the Lions’ offense
NFL rank: 11th
Twentyman: Limiting turnovers and winning the turnover battle every week is one of the most important statistics in the NFL.
Seattle led the NFL with just 11 giveaways, but playoff teams like New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, Kansas City and New England all finished in the 16-18 giveaway range, which puts Detroit’s 19 right on par with those clubs.
The biggest difference between Detroit and those clubs is that Detroit’s defense only took the ball away from opponents 14 times, the second fewest in the league.
20 or less turnovers in a season will typically put teams in the top half of the league.
5. Number: 43
What it means: Total number of sacks for the Lions' defense in 2018
NFL rank: 11th
Twentyman: It was the most sacks for the Lions in a season since finishing the 2010 season with 44.0.
Detroit’s 43.0 sacks were 11th most in the NFL, yet the team ranked in the bottom 10 in total quarterback pressures. That shows an ability to finish at the quarterback.
Of their 43.0 sacks, 28.0 came from players new to the roster in 2018, good for 65.1 percent of the production. Fourteen players recorded at least one full sack this past season, matching the most since 16 different Lions players had full sacks in the 1990 season.
Not a single individual player had more than 7.5 sacks (Romeo Okwara) which means pressure was able to be manufactured within the scheme and from all over the defense.
Add Trey Flowers to the fold this season and it’s fair to expect more in the sack department in 2019.
Jarrad Davis (6.0) and rookie Jahlani Tavai could get significant chances to rush the quarterback as well.
Coaches typically care more about pressure and affecting the quarterback, but sacks are huge negative plays and usually put the offense in hole that’s tough to dig out of. That’s why they’re important.