Lions plot to turn up the heat on opposing quarterbacks
Mitchell Trubisky, Aaron Rodgers and Kyler Murray.
It’s not exactly a paragon of mobile quarterbacks, but it’s a formidable group, at least. With their elusiveness, three quarterbacks the Lions have faced this season have been unfettered in eluding the defense.
The Lions have registered just three sacks — one in each game — the second-lowest total in the league. It’s been a struggle to get pressure on quarterbacks from the defensive line and the Lions are leery of dialing up many more blitzes than they have.
It’s never a simple solution, but it’s an issue they know they have to improve. In theory, at least, the task gets a little easier this week with the New Orleans Saints and 41-year-old Drew Brees, who wouldn’t be confused with Patrick Mahomes in terms of elusiveness.
“You've got to be strategic in how you rush these guys or they'll take off and have a zillion yards on you,” defensive line coach Bo Davis said. “That's the thing that we've been dealing with and facing and we've continued working on our pass rush and continue getting better at it, but we've got to know who we're rushing at the same time at quarterback.
“We just run up the field and take off after the guy and get out of our rush lanes and he takes off, that's what we try to eliminate and try to keep guys in the pocket and crush the pocket around him and try to get pressure on him and make him get the ball out of their hands.”
By different measures, the Lions get very little pressure on opposing quarterbacks. According to ESPN’s analytics, the Lions rank last in the league in Pass Rush Win Rate, which measures how often pass-rushers beat their block within 2.5 seconds.
The Lions’ mark is 20 percent, which is a whopping 40 percent below the league-leading Pittsburgh Steelers and 12 percent below the Dallas Cowboys, who are 31st.
The first three opponents were a little more mobile, but Brees could be a better opportunity for the Lions to focus on keeping him in the pocket and trying to apply pressure, maybe even blitzing more than they’ve done so far this season.
“Your mindset can change a little bit because you're not worrying about the guy getting out and then running for 150 yards. We know that's not Drew's MO,” defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. “Then you've got to take into your mind that it doesn't matter if this guy can't get out because this guy is more dangerous when he just stands back there and can pat it two or three times and then throw it anywhere he wants on the field.
“Plus the fact you've got a bunch of skill players out there you've got to cover.”