Did Holmes do Enough on Defense?

We all know the Lons sucked on defense in 2022. We also all know that the Lions in fact got better on defense as the season progressed. That improvement is important but still not good enough. Did Holmes do enough to field a good defense in 2023?

Who is out?
CB Okudah, SS Elliott, LBer Chris Board and CB Mike Hughes.

CB Cam Sutton, CB Emmanuel Moseley, CB/S C.J. Gardner Johnson and then rookies LBer Jack Campbell, Safety Brian Branch and DT Brodric Martin.

DE/DT Commish (critical keep), DT Buggs and LBer Alex Anzalone. Safety Will Harris.
Returning from injury (maybe the most important category?):
S Tracy Walker and DE Charles Harris. I think adding Jerry Jacobs here is fair too. Maybe DT Levi?

When you look at it like this the improvements are really not CLEARLY obvious. The DL is roughly the same overall. At LBer we added a promising rookie. Any improvement seems to come from a focused approach top the secondary. Okudah becomes Cam Sutton. Yep, that is an upgrade. Okudah had fine moment early in 2022 but he never had any consistency and he just wasn’t a plus level player here at all overall. Good games? Yep. Followed by bad games? Yep.

Brandon Jacobs becomes a more healthy Brandon Jacobs and CB Emmanuel Moseley. Upgrade? Yep. ESP. if and when Moseley is healthy and trusts his knee again.

At safety we added CJ Gardner Johnson and rookie Brian Branch and that is better than Elliott.

I do believe in second year growth in players. Hutch, Houston and Joseph will all likely be a little better and more confident. Josh Paschal too.

Here are damning Lion defensive stats overall (yes this got better down the stretch):
31st in rushing yards allowed at 5.2. Yes, inflated due to Justin Fields but just think the Panthers game. This defense for years has been weak against the run against focused and good offenses.
29th in rushing TDs allowed.
18th in sacks (pretty good considering).
30th in passing yards allowed. Awful.
31st in yards allowed/pass.

It is clear the Lions saw the secondary as THE issue overall. BUT…by adding Jack Campbell at LBer they saw something there too, right?

I can see a viable argument that the secondary will be better. But will we be able to stop the run better?

I know this team got a hell of a lot better with Commish balling out an a healthy Paschal will also help there.

Summary: I feel like there is an improvement but this defense feels like a work in progress still. I see a middle of the pack defense at this point. One that can win games, one that can get hot but not top ten yet. My guess is we end up 15th-20th in total defense and that would be great but not amazing.

To me the key guys on defense are:
Alim McNeil. How good can he be? Feels like a solid player but not dominant. I would love to be wrong.
Josh Paschal. We NEED him to be worthy of his pick. We need him to be NASTY.
Jack Campbell. Is he he real deal?
Hutch/Houston/Charles Harris/Romeo Okwara…can they be hell on the edge against an offense?
C.J. Gardner Johnson. Can he shut down outlets on 3rd down?

Those are the key guys I see and McNeil worries me the most because he just hasn’t been a lights out player for us BUT…we HAVE seen him dominate (see the Giants game). If McNeil grows up and becomes incredible teams better hold on. BUT…if we get okay Alim can we stop the Panthers from putting up 250+ rushing yards against us again? Thoughts?


You forgot AO. He was a big part of fan expectations a year ago.

The makeover in the secondary, especially with Gardner-Johnson at DB is huge.

2nd year Hutch.
Healthy Walker
Healthy Paschal
Healthy Jacobs (remember, he didn’t play until later in the season)
3 new starting-caliber DB’s
2nd year Rodrigo
2nd year Houston (again, someone we didn’t see until late in the season)
Cap’n Jack

This is about as overhaul as you can get outside of firing a coaching staff and installing a new defense. But, it’s true, the DL remains a bit of a concern.

Option A, fatten McNeil and add a real 3-tech
Option B, slim McNeil down to play more DT and draft another NT.

The chose Option B, which will be either slow to develop due to Martin’s rawness, or it will be a failure due to McNeil not being a true 3-tech and Martin at 25 not being the player we need him to be.


NYG Alim was unreal. I hope we get to see more of that.


I think it was one of theathletic guys who wrote recently that while most folks pointed the finger at the DL as being at fault in the Carolina game they thought it was poor LB play. Campbell will be key to the progress.

Looking to see how Alim progresses at the slimmer weight.


The skinny is the lions thought BEFORE FA and the draft they had a top 10 unit…….it’s kinda like @Air2theThrown hinted at, don’t be surprised if they go offense early in the draft. They got three very good and promising rookies…….but they didn’t need a great deal. They love their DL.


The defensive backfield has been completely remade and you have your MLB of the future and a run stuffing DL who’s raw but has upside. I’m not sure how much more the man could have done in one off season.

Also, I know nobody is expecting anything from Levi but I haven’t quite given up on him yet. I want to see what he can actually do if he stays healthy for a full season. We honestly don’t know what we have there aside from a guy who can’t get on the field because of back injuries and surgery.


Also looking forward to Hutch and Pascal in year two, better conditioning and understanding of the game. Well, you would hope.


The lions defense the last 10 games allowed 20 points per game. That’s middle of the pack. Now you add an entire new secondary with more talented player. You’re also going to get healthy pass rushers in Harris and okwara. Hutchinson and Houston will have had a year in the weight room to get bigger amd stronger. Same with Rodriguez. On the defensive line we all saw the growth from buggs. He went from fringe player to starting caliber tackle by the end of the season. He started to really become more of a problem for teams. He and McNeil now just need to be consistent. I also feel like Glenn grew as a play caller. Outside the Carolina game he drew up some good game plans.

We had by far the youngest defense in the league last season. They now have more veterans to lean on and more talent to play with. They just need to stay healthy and continue to grow.


I think we have someone the team is ready to move on from like Okudah and Swift. The talent was there but something between the ears or in the chest are not.

I’d point closer to the spinal column myself, but you may be right. We’ll certainly know better after this season.


The talent upgrade on D is very CLEARLY obvious. Sutton > Okudah by a lot, Moseley better than AO by a lot, CJGJ better than any starter last year by a lot, Tracy Walker returning doesn’t hurt, Branch is another weapon we didn’t have anything close to last season, that’s just the secondary, Jack Campbell instantly becomes our best LB and probably leads the team in tackles the next decade, Houston and Rodrigo get another offseason to improve, Anzalone brought back to be the vet leader, the DLine gets Harris and Okwara back, Hutch gets another off-season to improve and Holmes adds a big two gap mammoth to help shore up the run game. We’ve got decent depth everywhere and high end talent at every level. This D is sufficient enough to support a top 5 offense which I think we have.


On paper the additions and internal improvment look good, not great, but good to very good, which should lead to improvement.

Now lets see how it translates to the field vs on paper.


When you give up over 5 YPC in 2022 then only add a 3rd rd. rookie DT it is worthy of looking closely at that position group and decisions by the GM.

I like what we have in defense and I like what Holmes did in free agency. But…Holmes had options.

Brad may be 100% right to have focused on Sutton, CGJ and Moseley as his primary defense upgrades. I LOVE those dudes. But, would I have been happy adding Say DT Javon Hargrove? Absolutely. Javon is a stud DT who went to the 49ers as a just-turned-30 free agent who had 11 sacks in 2022. Javon is as consistent as they come.

Being a GM is about making choices. I am NOT saying Holmes is or was wrong with his choices. I AM saying allowing over 5 YPC is awful and the Panthers destroyed us on the ground and we added rookie Jack Campbell and a 3rd rookie. Is that enough to correct this glaring need on defense? I think it is okay to be skeptical at this point.

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I don’t disagree with being skeptical, or cautiously optimistic in my case.

Can we get the defense to the 8-12 range for the whole season? On paper defense looks improved with internal progression as well. Now, time to see how it translate to the field.


It’s easy to focus on the stats “you are what your record sez you are” BS

What I observed was a young inexperienced Defense take their lumps early but gradually got better and better

Now the most glaring deficiencies have been addressed with better than average vets, I’m thinking they’ll hover around top 10 this coming season


Outscoring people is way more entertaining. We have to get better on D then we have been but I love the fact that we’re putting our foot on the gas in terms of the offense.


We all love the high octane offense, off course as we know scoring too quick taxes the Defense

Give me a ball control balanced methodical offense, your Defense’s best friend

I think this is what they’re building


8-12 range is the dream this season. The FA DBs go a long way toward that dream, but our draft was pointed toward the playoffs and how we’d match up against the Niners and the Eagles. If we can’t mitigate their run game, well, we’ll get run over.

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Jeff Risdon was talking about how the lions really believe paschal is a 10 sack guy.


Jamo and Gibbs could be the biggest home run threats outside of The Penguin and Yhe Cheetah.