The Detroit Lions are coming off a 6-10 finish to their season which saw them finish in last place in the NFC North. It was also the first year under new coach Matt Patricia. With the 2018 season now firmly in the rearview mirror for all 32 NFL teams, the Lions have started their 2019 campaign off on a high note taking Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson in the first round of the draft on April 28.
Hockenson is an all-around threat that can catch passes, pass block and most importantly run block, which is something the Lions are very much interested in. Both Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn have made it clear the Lions will be a run-first team going forward, which goes against the norm in the NFL today, with the assortment of teams who are pass heavy, such as the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and Los Angles Rams. However, that isn’t to say that a team that prefers to run can’t win.
In 2018, the Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys both used a run-first approach to win their respective divisions and reach the playoffs. The team that averaged the most rushing yards per game, the Seattle Seahawks also earned a trip to the playoffs after going 10-6 during the regular season. Those teams were able to win thanks to their run offense and their talented defenses that kept games close.
For a run first team to be effective, they must also have a defense that can generate stops, and if last season is any indication, the Lions have some good building blocks in that department. At the end of last season, the Lions defense ranked as the 10th best total defense, giving up 335 yards per game. They also ranked as the 10th best rushing defense and the eighth best passing defense giving up 225 passing yards per outing.
The foundation of a strong defense is already there, and in a division that showcases the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers, a run heavy defensive team could be a perfect counter to the top teams in the NFC North. As shown by the last season, however, having just a good defense will not be enough. The offense also has to carry its weight and last season it simply did not in Detroit. The Lions ranked as the 24th total offense in the league, averaging 324 total yards per game.
A new looking offense could be in store for the Lions, especially with the hire of new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who is best known for being the Seahawks offensive coordinator from 2011-2018. During that time the Seahawks appeared in two Super Bowls and won one. The Seahawks calling card in the first few years under Bevell was a running offense and a stone wall defense.
If Bevell can replicate even a small portion of his success in Seattle, the Lions could be in store for a quick turnaround in 2019. The Lions will begin their 2019 regular season on the road against the Arizona Cardinals on Sep. 8 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. The first home game will take place on Sep. 15 at Ford Field against the Los Angeles Chargers.