As fans, we have this nasty habit of over-simplifying things. Lineman get sacks. Linebackers blitz. Corners and safeties intercept. That's it. Anything in the way of essential contributing play or skills gets tossed aside. Unless the team is blowing someone out, fans demand to know why the team isn't making their players pad the aforementioned stats.
For the last few years the Detroit Lions defense, especially the secondary, have under performed. In an effort to fix this, Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is attempting to introduce a more aggressive scheme that will allow the corners to play tighter coverage. More aggressive cornerback play should, in turn, lead to more turnovers... in theory. Both Baltimore and Seattle, the last two Super Bowl winners, have experienced success with this kind of technique.
The new coaching staff may be jumping to conclusions, however.
The success of this scheme is predicated on pressure from the front seven. Around the league, the Lions have developed a reputation of having a fierce defensive line. Unfortunately, the reality is that it is little more than reputation. Last year, Ndamukong Suh was solid with occasional flashes of brilliance. Nick Fairley, however, frequently underperformed. And the defensive ends rotated in and out regularly specifically because of either injury or ineffectiveness. In truth, the Lions were largely unable to bring any kind of pass rush.
Now the new coaching staff is going to encourage the corners to bite down hard, draping receivers. Even the best of corners can't drape a receiver for very long. If the pass rush isn't significantly more effective than it was last year, opposing quarterback will try torching this defense deep instead of picking them apart with underneath routes.
And in the NFC North, with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, and likely Teddy Bridgewater, do you think there will be any hesitation at the chance to torch the Lions deep?
The new coaching staff is counting on more aggresive stunting along the defensive line and more creative formations to increase confusion and give the defensive line an edge.
It better give them a considerable edge. The Lions did a little to try to bolster their pass rush this off season, but they didn't do nearly enough. Clearly, the coaching staff feels the new system will cause this front seven to excel.
And it better, because if this unit doesn't get significantly better and fast, the 2014 season is going to get out of control before it ever starts.