Detroit Lions' Midseason Report is a three part series examining the strengths and weaknesses of the offense, defense and special teams from the first eight games while casting a look ahead to the second half of the season.
Defensively, the Detroit Lions are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were after eight games in 2012. What's the biggest reason for the turnaround? An aggressive mindset which has put the team on pace to double the amount of turnovers they forced last year.
The Lions have already taken the ball away 13 times from the competition, including 10 interceptions. All of last season, Detroit only had 11 picks. A healthy Louis Delmas, a solid Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley along with a developing Ziggy Ansah are the biggest reasons why. Detroit's defensive line is generating plenty of pressure, and when they do, the secondary is feasting. Where have things been and where might they be going for the defense? The second midseason report is off the ground today.
First Half Defensive MVP: Ndamukong Suh. There is little doubt that Suh is having his best year in a Lions' uniform. Though his sack and tackle numbers aren't through the roof (3.5 and 19), Suh is one of the top defensive linemen in the league this year at pressuring the quarterback. All of this pressure has led to mistakes in the pocket, which has helped the secondary grab more interceptions. The best part? Aside from a low block in the first game, Suh has gone about his work quietly and remained pretty anonymous. The line will need that to continue for an impressive second half to come to fruition.
First Half Defensive Unsung Hero: DeAndre Levy. Not only has Levy collected four interceptions tying himself for the league lead, he's scored a touchdown along with playing solid rush defense. Very quietly, Levy has been a steadying force on the back end, and is enjoying a career year. Jim Schwartz would never admit it, but the decision to sign Levy instead of Justin Durant is looking brighter by the day, as the linebacker's game has evolved.
First Half Player Needing Improvement: Darius Slay. Growing pains are expected for Slay, a rookie, but he has had some major struggles in the first half of the season. He's experienced lessons under fire against such physical opponents as Dez Bryant and Alshon Jeffery, but has improved. As Slay gets more playing time, expect him to continue to improve even more. This is not a case of a player needing to elevate his game, bur rather a case of a young man who is learning on the field under fire and continuing to get better.
Two Players To Watch In Second Half: Louis Delmas and Chris Houston. Delmas has stayed healthy throughout the first half and showed his positive impact with interceptions and fantastic tackles in the run game. The impact of a healthy Delmas is being felt after a tough season last year, but can he stay healthy? That will be important for the Lions' defense to remain together. Houston, meanwhile, struggled badly against Cincinnati and rebounded with a decent performance against the Cowboys, minus a few plays. How Houston deals with some of his bigger responsibilities left (Antonio Brown, Hakeem Nicks, Jordy Nelson, DeSean Jackson) will tell plenty about how Detroit does defensively.
Toughest Game Of Second Half: Green Bay Packers. The Lions always seem to struggle to contain the Packers' passing attack, which is missing a few notable members but should have Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones at full strength by the time late November rolls around. Additionally, the Packers' running game is rounding into form, meaning the Lions will have a major divisional challenge on Thanksgiving, as usual.
Easiest Game Of Second Half: Pittsburgh Steelers. From a defensive perspective, the Lions should have an easy time with plenty teams on the second half of their schedule, but the easiest could be the Steelers. Pittsburgh has been bad at running the football, a middle of the pack team with throwing the football and is -9 in turnover ratio, showing they've been unable to help their defense out by limiting turnovers. With a beat up offensive line and little running game to rely on, it could be a long day for Ben Roethlisberger and company in November, especially with the Lions' hungry secondary attacking the ball.
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