In 2014, the Detroit Lions finished the season ranked second in the NFL in total defense as they gave up an average of 300.9 yards per game, second to only the Seattle Seahawks. A big reason for the No. 2 ranking was the rushing defense, which finished first in the NFL by a pretty wide margin with only 69.3 yards allowed per game.
Then came the offseason which saw All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh skip town for a pile of gold in Miami. When this happened the first thought on the minds of many analysts was that they Lions defense would take a step back in 2015.
Stephen Tulloch is not worried at all about the loss of Suh, he knows what the Lions have on defense.
“Speaking for our defense,” Tulloch said, “I know we’ll be damn good.”
Tulloch, who plays middle linebacker for the Lions, only played in three games in 2014 after tearing his ACL while celebrating a sack against the Green Bay Packers.
Not only does the veteran think the Lions defense will be good, he thinks they will be better than they were last season.
“I think so,” he said.
The first step to replacing Suh, if that is even possible, was acquiring defensive tackle Haloti Ngata from the Baltimore Ravens. Ngata has been an absolute beast on the defensive line since entering the league and the Lions are counting on that continuing, at least for the short term.
In addition to losing Suh, the defensive line also lost Nick Fairley. The Lions did their best to fill those voids not only by picking up Ngata, but also by drafting defensive tackle Gabe Wright and acquiring former New Orleans Saints defensive tackle, Tyrunn Walker.
Tulloch knows the team lost some major talent on the defensive line, but he also knows the talent that remains, including in the defensive backfield.
“Our secondary is as strong as it has been since I’ve been here,” Tulloch said. “You guys (in the media) all know what we endured the first couple years of me being here.”
Assuming safety James Ihedigbo has, in fact, ended his holdout, which looks to be the case, then Tulloch is absolutely right. Joining Ihedigbo in the secondary will be cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay, along with safety Glover Quin.
There is no doubt that Suh leaving would be a big loss to any team in the NFL, but the Lions have made moves to lessen the blow. Tulloch is back, Slay is looking to breakout, and Ngata has come to town to clog the run.
When all is said and done, Tulloch may be absolutely right, the Lions defense could very well be better than they were in 2014. If that’s the case, this could be a very special season for the Detroit Lions.
Could the Lions make back-to-back playoff appearances?