Kyle Vanden Bosch seems pretty animate that the Detroit Lions are the best defensive line in the NFL. That may a bit overzealous given that the team underperformed in that category last year, recording 41 sacks (T-10th). Some of this could be due to the suspension sustained by Ndamukong Suh after stomping the Rams’ Scott Wells, then with the Green Bay Packers, which dropped his sack production from 10 sacks in 2012 to only 4 sacks in 2011. Regardless of their position last year, Vanden Bosch had this to same about this years group
“If we’re not the most dominant defensive line in the league, I feel like we’re not doing our job,” he said. “I feel like we have the people, I feel like we have the weapons, so if we’re not doing it, we’re underachieving”
Vanden Bosch may be a bit narrow in his view of the league when making this claim, especially with powerhouse defensive line’s like the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. However, the Lions should see boost this year with a healthy Nick Fairly and the hopeful maturation of Suh keeping him in all 16 games this season. They could also see a spike as a result of the progression of Matthew Stafford and the Detroit offense, which will likely force teams into a one-dimensional, passing attack while playing catch-up in the season half. More passes means more opportunities, and with a league-wide injury front hitting a ton of big-name running backs, there should be an even heavier reliance on the passing game.
The St. Louis Rams will be their first test tomorrow. Given the shuffling within the Rams interior line, it should be interesting to see how they hold up against Fairley and Suh. More importantly, Saffold and Richardson will need to keep the edge on the pocket, at least for a couple of seconds. If the preseason is any indication the St. Louis offensive game plan, the Lions front four will have to take full advantage of their opportunities. Bradford relied heavily on the quick, 3-step drops, play-action with Steven Jackson, and short slants and crossing routes with the tight ends and slot receivers. This type of offensive will make it difficult for Suh and Co. to have the time to get the penetration needed for the big hits on Bradford. Lions Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham is well aware of this,
“They’ve (the defensive line) got the ability,” Cunningham said. “It just depends on how teams approach us. The way it has been the last year and a half, it’s a three-step drop, a five-quick, the ball comes out in under three seconds. Either that or they go like New Orleans and block the kitchen sink. People game plan against us to keep those guys off the quarterback and I don’t blame them.”
If the Vanden Bosch and the Lions truly have the best defensive line in the league, they will have to prove it Sunday, because, if they don’t, Bradford may have a field day working against the beat up Detroit secondary.