Pat Caputo: Lions' Defensive Failure Two-Headed Issue


Matt Patricia is the epicenter for all that is wrong with the Lions.

His 9-23-1 record is bad enough, but it’s been enhanced by the stunning manner in which the Lions lose.

For a defensive specialist, Patricia’s defense is awful, particularly late in games. The Lions have made the fourth-quarter collapse an art form. Yet, even by Lions’ standards, their 27-23 season-opening loss to the Bears was egregious.

But is the team's overriding issue just Patricia’s coaching, or is it at least as much related to general manager Bob Quinn’s player personnel decisions?

It’s not like Patricia has the best ingredients to cook a defensive meal.

Quinn’s drafts have been decidedly heavy on the offensive side of the football, and his decisions have been underwhelming when he has addressed defense.

The back-to-back selections of linebacker Jarrad Davis and Teez Tabor during the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft have been hurtful.

Cornerback Jeff Okudah didn’t play during the loss to the Bears because of a hamstring injury, but he wasn’t expected to start. He was the third overall pick in the draft -- and several rookies, including corners, selected after Okudah contributed significantly during their NFL openers.

On the offensive side, you can envision multiple long-term, solid NFL players selected by Quinn -- Kenny Golladay, Frank Ragnow, Taylor Decker, T.J. Hockenson. Rookies D’Andre Swift and Jonah Jackson fall in the “we’ll see’’ category, although it wasn’t a promising debut by either Sunday.

On defense, perhaps tackle Da’Shawn Hand has a chance. Safety Tracy Walker displays some promise, although it’s a mystery why he seems to be in such competition with Will Harris for a starting position when he is clearly the better player.

Jahlani Tavai noticeably struggled vs. the Bears, though.

As a result of ignoring and/or missing in the draft on the defensive side of the ball, Quinn has overcompensated with free agent signings.

The trouble comes with the necessity to overpay in order to land free agents, and how costly it is when they go down due to injury. When Desmond Trufant and Justin Colemen went out of the Bears’ game, there was limited depth at cornerback.

It subsequently leads to a parade of players brought in for free-agent workouts with the hope they can fill a position.

It’s an especially troubling development after the first week of the season with Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and the Packers at Lambeau Field on the horizon.

Quinn’s questionable roster building, especially in regard to the draft, has been just as culpable for the Lions’ defensive shortcomings as Patricia’s questionable coaching.

And it doesn’t seem like it’s going to get better on either front before it gets worse.