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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Through 3 games, Lions’ defense is much improved

By Matthew Coller

In 2016, the Detroit Lions had one of the league’s worst pass defenses, but thus far, against Carson Palmer, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan, the results have been much better.

The Lions currently rank fifth in the NFL in quarterback rating allowed, giving up just a 70.2 rating to the trio of proven quarterbacks. Last year, the Lions allowed a 106.5 rating to opponents, the worst in the NFL.

At the center of their improvement is pass rush. Detroit has eight sacks so far, good for 11th best in the league. In 2016, they only collected 26 sacks, the league’s second worst total.

“They’re a solid defensive front and they rotate everybody through there, so they’re going to stay fresh,” Vikings quarterback Case Keenum said. “They have some new linebackers that are really good players and on the back end they’re as solid as they come. They’re rarely misaligned, so I have to see where those guys are at all times.”

Rookie linebacker Jerrad Davis, who was Detroit’s first-round pick this year, has gotten off to a strong start with 15 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery.

Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who had 14.5 sacks in 2014, appears to be bouncing back from a rough 2016 season. He’s already cleared his ‘16 sack total with 3.0 so far this year.

“They do a good job of getting pressure on the quarterback,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “They’re tight in coverage, they’re very well coached scheme wise, fundamentally sound, they are around the football so they end up getting a lot of picks.”

Seven picks, in fact, which ranks the Lions second best in the NFL in interceptions.

“Some are tipped balls, some are overthrows because of pressure, some of the DBs do a nice job of stepping in front of things,” Zimmer said.

Cornerback Darius Slay is the centerpiece of the Lions’ defense. He’s grabbed two interceptions and has six passes defended.

Julio Jones had a solid day but not special against Slay. He was targeted 12 times and caught seven passes for 91 yards and no touchdowns. His longest catch was 18 yards.

Detroit’s improved pass defense will be tested against the Vikings’ top two wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, who rank No. 2 and 3 in the NFL in receiving yards.

”They are hard to cover,” Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said. “They are excellent route runners, they have excellent hands and they have run-after-catch ability. They’re highly, highly competitive and that makes them difficult.”

The post Through 3 games, Lions’ defense is much improved appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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