Packers' new and improved pass defense will test Lions' Matthew Stafford
Allen Park — Much has been made of the Detroit Lions' improved pass defense to start the 2019 season, but they're not the only team in the NFC North making life rough on opposing quarterbacks.
A year after surrendering an opposing passer rating above 100, the Green Bay Packers rank fourth in the stat this season, one spot ahead of the Lions.
It unquestionably helps that the team's young cornerback tandem of Jaire Alexander and Kevin King have another year of experience, and the revamped pass rush has been more effective, while a third catalyst is the team's new-look safety tandem.
The team bid farewell to former early-round draft picks Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Josh Jones, trading Clinton-Dix before the trade deadline last season and waiving Jones this offseason. In their place are prized free-agent acquisition Adrian Amos and first-round pick Darnell Savage, out of Maryland.
"I think Amos, he’s playing at a really good level," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "I think he’s really – his recognition in the back end, I think, has improved a lot. I think he can play down, he can play aggressive, he can do all those things. We know he can tackle extremely well, but I would say his communication, his awareness in the back end really looks at a very high-level right now."
A fifth-round pick out of Penn State in 2015, Amos spent his first four seasons with the Bears, before earning a four-year, $37 million contract from the Packers as a free agent this offseason.
Paired with Alexander and King on the outside and veteran Tramon Williams working in the slot, the Packers are allowing 58.2 percent of passes to be completed against them, while racking up seven interceptions, tied for second in the league.
"Those guys, I just think are all on the same page," Patricia said. "I think it’s, again, we talk about defense all the time, the combination of rush and coverage and the marriage of those two together. I think, right now, that’s where they’re at. They’re at a really high level where they know, whether it’s zone or man, the front is going to get there in a certain amount of time."
Detroit comes to town on Monday with a top-10 passing attack, averaging 267 yards per game. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown nine touchdowns to two interceptions through four games and has a passer rating of 102.6, which projected out over a full season would be a career-high.