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How much potential does the Detroit Lions' defense have?

A breakout season from Ziggy Ansah could propel Detroit's defense to great heights.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Yesterday, I wrote about the high praise Pro Football Focus gave to the Detroit Lions' offense. However, during the process I said that, if they were to rank the defenses, the Lions would probably fall into the bottom 10, before I reeled that back a bit to say the bottom half, having made my point but then realizing I was probably overstating the situation. Well, sure enough, PFF unveiled their defensive rankings, with the four position groups being secondary, linebackers, edge rushers, and interior line. In the end, PFF is much higher on the Lions' defense than I am.

Detroit comes in at 12, which I was not expecting. Like I said, being anywhere in the top 16 seemed nigh impossible to me. While I don't necessarily agree with this ranking, I do respect PFF's way of doing things, and so I feel like it is fair to say I may have been a bit pessimistic. I mean, Football Outsiders had them ranked 14th last season, and their defense will probably be better this year. The young players in the secondary should improve. Nick Fairley is apparently looking good. Ziggy Ansah should be better. Perhaps 12th isn't so unreasonable.

It is worth noting that the defensive rankings by PFF were much more variant than the offensive rankings. That is to say, the highest ranked position and the lowest ranked position often were fairly close to one another, and a lot of teams found all four in a similar grouping. That is not the case with the defensive rankings. Only a couple of teams don't see high variance, and the Lions aren't one of them. Their interior line is fourth, and their linebackers are seventh, but then the secondary is 26th and the edge rushers are 28th. Detroit's rush players being worse ranked than their secondary? I didn't see that coming. A breakout year from Ansah will change that.

The writeup on the article indicates that, should Ansah, Kyle Van Noy, and Darius Slay live up to their potential, the question may become how far the Lions can go in the playoffs. I don't want to get overly optimistic based on one websites rankings, and let us not forget in game head coaching, which Jim Caldwell has struggled with, and special teams, where the Lions need a kicker. However, if a group like Pro Football Focus thinks the Lions have the ninth best offensive talent and the 12th best defensive talent, I find that very encouraging.

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