The Detroit Lions looked a lot different in their second preseason game on defense. When they played the Oakland Raiders, the Lions were doing something very different with their linebackers. Teryl Austin was blitzing consistently, and the linebackers were often getting pressure on the quarterbacks.
Stephen Tulloch and the Detroit Lions linebackers only blitzed on about 18% of opponents’ passing situations in 2013. Teryl Austin has already said that the number is going to increase greatly, and it started to show more when the Lions played the Raiders.
The Lions have been running a system that is familiar with linebackers, and it entails the strong side linebacker being referred to as the “SAM” linebacker. Ashlee Palmer had this to say about the use of the SAM linebacker: “As the SAM we’re on the line a lot more, and we’re doing a lot more blitzing. I love it. It’s getting us a chance to get after the quarterback more, instead of sitting back and letting the quarterback dictate what we do.”
That was apparent when the Detroit Lions squared off against the Oakland Raiders. Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy were both consistently getting into the backfield. Even the Lions’ rookie, Kyle Van Noy was having a nice impact off of the blitz. With these dangerous Lions linebackers flying through the line of scrimmage, Aaron Rodgers may not have pretty little pockets to throw out of.
The Lions have a very good defensive line, and it is deeper than most. With players like Caraun Reid and Nick Fairley coming in fresh off of the bench, opposing offenses are not going to be allowed to get comfortable. In 2013, the Detroit Lions were able to muster only 33 sacks. With consistent help from the linebacker position, the Lions are going to hope to dramatically increase that number.
Teryl Austin is doing a great job, so far, in helping his players find a role that they fit into better. You have to imagine that he was at least partly behind the decision to relocate Nick Fairley to the second team defense. He has instilled a sense of urgency in these defenders that is making them play harder. Austin has also given the players a defensive package that is more fun for them to play in.
No question about it, the Detroit Lions are going to need to get much more pressure on opposing quarterbacks to be successful. Especially when they play Green Bay and Chicago twice a season, Detroit cannot let their quarterbacks get comfortable in the pocket. This SAM package that Teryl Austin has his linebackers involved in could be the answer to the Lions’ previous lack of sack production.