Sun, 14 Aug 2022

TWENTYMAN: 5 numbers that need to change

Detroit Lions
23 Jun 2022, 20:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

The Lions only won three games in the first year of the Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell era in Detroit. But the expectation is for the Lions to be much improved in 2022.

They return a good, young core of players, who got a lot of experience last year. Holmes also did a nice job via free agency and the NFL Draft to fill some glaring holes on the roster.

Detroit returns the bulk of their coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, who interviewed for some head coaching vacancies this offseason, and there's a lot of excitement surrounding the offense with new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson at the helm.

But there are some areas where the Lions need to improve if they're going to record more wins in 2022. Here are 5 numbers that need to change this upcoming season for that to happen:

1. Number(s): 34.7 & 45.1

What it means: Third-down offense and defense percentages

NFL rank: 31st & 29th

Twentyman: Detroit has to find a way to be more efficient this year on third down on both sides of the ball. The offense converted on third down just 34.7 percent of the time in 2021, which was better than only the Chicago Bears.

Defensively, the Lions were better than only Atlanta (48.4), Washington (48.5) and the Los Angeles Chargers (49.5) in preventing opposing offenses to convert on third down.

The Lions are hoping the additions they made to their receiver corps, along with the resources they put into improving their pass rush on defense, will go a long way in improving both numbers.

2. Number: 30

What it means: Total number of sacks for the Lions last season

NFL rank: 30th

Twentyman: Detroit's 30 sacks last season were better than only Philadelphia (29) and Atlanta (18).

Affecting the quarterback and speeding up their clock is critical to playing really good defense in the NFL. For comparison, the Super Bowl winning Rams, who had one of the better defenses in the NFL last season, recorded the third most sacks with 50.

The Lions re-signed their sack leader last season, edge rusher Charles Harris, and drafted Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson (No. 2 overall) and Kentucky's Josh Paschal (second round) to help give them a boost in that department. They also changed their scheme upfront to a 4-3 attacking style they hope gets more production from athletic interior defenders Alim McNeill, Levi Onwuzurike and Michael Brockers.

When a team can consistently affect the quarterback, it just makes everything on defense that much easier.

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3. Number(s): 47.8 & 70.0

What it means: Red zone efficiency for the Lions last season on offense and defense

NFL rank: 31st & 31st

Twentyman: Like we talked about with Detroit's third-down numbers above, the Lions have to be much better inside the 20-yard line on both sides of the ball in 2022. Outside of the turnover margin, third down and red zone efficiency are two of the biggest statistics in determining wins and losses in the NFL. Can a team continue drives or get off the field on third down? Can they not settle for field goals offensively and make their opponent have to settle for them on defense?

The Lions reached the red zone 46 times last season (fourth fewest in NFL) and scored a touchdown on just 22 of those drives.

Opposing offenses reached the red zone 60 times last year and scored a touchdown a whopping 42 times. Detroit ranked 28th in third-down defense, 30th against the pass and 29th in the amount of successful plays they allowed to opponents last year in the red zone.

Detroit's coaching staff has spent a lot of time this offseason working in the red zone, for good reason.

4. Number: 13

What it means: Total points scored on the first possession of the second half

NFL rank: 31st

Twentyman: Good football teams are able to make adjustments at the half that counteract what opponents threw at them during the first 30 minutes of the game. The first offensive possession of the second half is a chance to turn the momentum, or build on a good first half, and too many times last year the Lions' offense didn't take advantage of that opportunity.

Detroit scored just two touchdowns last season on their first possession of the second half. Only Jacksonville (10) scored fewer total points on those possessions. It will be up to Campbell, Johnson and the rest of the offensive staff to push the right buttons to begin the second half much stronger offensively in 2022.

On the other side of the spectrum, Detroit allowed 57 points to opponents on their first possession of the second half, which was the most in the NFL.

5. Number: 14.4 percent

What it means: The amount of 3 & out drives forced by the Lions' defense in 2021

NFL rank: 32nd

Twentyman: The No. 1 job of the defense is to get off the field and give the ball back to the offense, preferably with great field position to assist them in putting points on the board. Of the 180 offensive possessions for Lions opponents last season, only 26 resulted in a 3 & out. Detroit's low sack totals and high third-down percentage defensively play a big factor in this total.

Buffalo's defense led the NFL last season by forcing a 3 & out on nearly 25 percent of opponent drives. The increased amount of possessions that means for a team's offense can be the difference in games, especially in a lot of the close games the Lions ended up in a year ago.

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