If you could retroactively make one change to the Lions 2017 offseason, what would it be?
Hindsight can be an unhealthy thing. It’s always easier to know what you should have done when you’re in the future. It’s unfair, and typically cruel, criticize in hindsight, as oftentimes these decisions are anything but clear at the time they are made.
But at the same time, hindsight is important. If you don’t go back and look at mistakes made, how are you ever supposed to learn from them?
This week’s SB Nation theme across all NFL sites is looking back at mistakes from the offseason. Here’s the question:
Now that the season has begun to play out, what would your team do today if they could go back and change one move they made in the offseason? Would it instead be a move or addition they didn't make?
The Detroit Lions are 3-3 and their season is far from over, but there are obvious flaws in the team that could have been addressed this offseason. So let’s use the power of hindsight and pick out the one thing about the Lions’ offseason that we would have changed.
For me, the answer is obvious:
Add a pass rusher
This one doesn’t really require the benefit of hindsight. This was something Lions fans were screaming for all offseason. After Bob Quinn’s uninspiring free agency efforts to add to the defensive line with signings like Cornelius Washington and Jordan Hill, everyone was expecting Quinn to draft at least one pass rusher in the 2017 NFL Draft. Quinn waited all the way until the last round to pick up Pat O’Connor, who didn’t even end up making the team.
The Lions, admittedly, have been hurt by injuries at the position. Ezekiel Ansah continues to be hobbled by a knee injury, Kerry Hyder’s Achilles injury was devastating and who knows what Hill could have done had he not torn his bicep?
But this problem goes beyond that. Detroit’s two top ends may be injured, but the Lions never had the depth beyond them to begin with. The Lions like to rotate four defensive ends on gameday, and they currently don’t even have two adequate ones. Here’s the stat breakdown:
Anthony Zettel: 18 tackles, 4.0 sacks
Ezekiel Ansah: 14 tackles. 4.0 sacks
Cornelius Washington: 4 tackles, 0 sacks
Jeremiah Valoaga: 3 tackles, 1.0 sacks
George Johnson: 2 tackles. 0 sacks
Alex Barrett (currently on the practice squad): 1 tackles, 0 sacks
So while adding Hyder may have helped this team a little, it’s clear there was never enough depth here, even if the squad remained healthy all year, which would have been unrealistic to expect in the first place.
So what should they have done? Free agency didn’t turn out to be as fruitful as the Lions had likely hoped. Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, Jason Pierre-Paul and Charles Johnson all ended up re-signing with their teams before free agency opened.
But this looked to be a pretty decent draft to add an edge rusher. If Detroit didn’t want to take a chance on one of the top-tier edge rushers like Charles Harris or Taco Charlton, there were plenty of options later in the draft. They could have taken Carl Lawson (3.5 sacks in 2017) late in the third round or Deatrich Wise (3.0 sacks) instead of Michael Roberts in the fourth.
While no draft pick was guaranteed to contribute right away, they would at least provide some long-term stability at the position. Right now, Detroit doesn’t have a defensive end who is a clear part of their future. Not a single one.