Talking Tampa 2
I still contend the Lions' biggest problem on defense is a lack of talent, but here's more fuel for those who say the Tampa 2 is an outdated brand and the Lions need to change schemes, coordinators and coaches.
In Chicago, where the Bears rode the Tampa 2 to the Super Bowl two years ago, coach Lovie Smith is answering similar questions about the bend-but-don't-break scheme's usefulness. From today's edition of Sporting News Today: "At its most basic, the scheme is designed to prevent big plays with the premise being opposing offenses can't construct 12-play scoring drives without messing up. The problem is opponents are marching straight downfield. The defense cannot generate a pass rush, even with the blitz, and the cornerbacks are not good enough to stop the pitch-and-catch routes."
Sound familiar? Chicago has better playmakers than the Lions - Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, etc. - but the same problems. It does beg the question whether the perennially behind-the-curve Lions (they went West Coast offense after its heyday and Mike Martz after his) are strutting around in last year's fashions while the rest of league is sporting new designs.
Statistically, the top two defenses in the league this year belong to 3-4 teams the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. It's a copycat league and if the 3-4 is back as the defense of the future - the Jets, Cowboys and Patriots also run 3-4s and rank in the top 12 in total D - the Lions would be wise not to wait to try it until 2012. If the powers that be decide a coaching change is in order after the season, Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan should be at the top of the list.
Of course, in the Tampa 2's defense, the scheme, like any good one in the NFL, depends largely on pressuring the quarterback. Both the Lions and Bears have struggled in that area this year (they're tied for 18th with 17 sacks) while other 4-3 teams like the Giants, Eagles and Titans can claim plenty of success. Put Albert Haynesworth or Justin Tuck in a Lions uniform and things in Detroit might not look so bad.