Which defenses can go from worst to first
Many people are thinking of teams that will go from worst to first. Teams that were awful last season and are suddenly Super Bowl contenders. Few people are talking about which defenses are going to go from worst to first. Here let's look at the three significant categories and find three defenses in the bottom five of last year's defenses statistically. Of those three categories, there are teams that might shock us and have a good or even great defense in this upcoming season.
Scoring defense (points per game): Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers had one of the worst scoring defenses last season, allowing 28.1 points per game. Many factors went into the terrible defense but the primary reason the defense struggled can be blamed on the offense. Jameis Winston led the NFL with 30 interceptions and the offense had 41 total turnovers. With Tom Brady now running the offense in Tampa Bay, we don’t know how many points they will score but we know that they won’t turn over the ball (at least not 41 times), giving the defense a better field position to work with and less time on the field.
Aside from an offense that is intended on not turning over the ball on every drive, the defense saw improvement as last season progressed and through the off-season. Last season, the defense saw the emergence of young defensive tackle Vita Vea and linebacker Devin White, both getting better with each game. Along with the two taking the next big step, and the mix of proven veterans like Lavonte David, Ndamukong Suh, and Jason Pierre Paul, this defense can take the next big step. What will ultimately turn this defense into a top unit in the NFL is the secondary, the defensive backs are young and still developing so they might still be a year away, if they are ready, this can be a special defense.
Rush defense (yards per game): Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns had the third-worst rushing defense in the NFL (fun fact, the two worst were the Bengals and Washington Football Team) as they allowed opposing teams to run for 144.7 yards per game on them. The Browns had everything go wrong for them last season with the season quickly falling after the Myles Garrett season-long suspension. Statistically, the Browns allowed 179 rushing yards or more in every game after the Garrett suspension.
Having Myles Garrett reinstated might be the leading cause for the Cleveland Browns comeback and the major improvement in the rush defense. While Garrett is primarily a pass-rusher, he is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL and one of the best defenders overall, Garrett should once again allow the rest of the defense to open up and be effective.
The Browns also made moves in the backend of the defense, while that doesn’t usually translate to run-stopping, Karl Joseph and Ronnie Harrison are both great tackling safeties, which was the major downfall for the Browns rush defense as running backs would get to the second level and see big runs ensue. The secondary being clipped with injuries last season hurt the defense as a whole, a healthy secondary should help the overall defense and specifically the run-defense (this is considering the fact that the strong safeties are going to be playing the run).
Pass defense (yards per game): Detroit Lions
The Lions as a team completely fell apart last season, first came a game that was lost by poor officiating, then Matthew Stafford got injured. The Lions pass defense was particularly bad as they allowed 284.4 passing yards a game which was the worst in the NFL. The team traded Quardre Diggs midseason and then traded pro-bowl cornerback Darius Slay in the off-season, leaving many to wonder how the defense and the secondary is going to get better. This is where the lofty expectations of a draft pick come into play. The Lions drafted Jeffery Okudah with the third overall pick in the draft, a star corner out of Ohio State. Jeffery Okudah is likely to struggle this season but the NFL has proven that the defense and a pass-defense can instantly turn around with the addition of a lockdown corner, if Okudah is as good as people say he is, the Lions might have found their lockdown corner for the future. The Lions also brought in a few veterans to help the pass-defense, including safety Duron Harmon (Matt Patricia knows him well), and corner Desmond Trufant. The Lions are a team that is expected to finish at the bottom of their division but can be a sleeper team this season, with a revamped secondary, the emergence can start in the pass-defense.