If you are one of those people that believe that numbers tell you the story of how a team is playing, the Lions will fool you. There are some talented players on this defense but those numbers will tell you that as a group, they are not playing well.
I believe the strength of this defense is their front four. Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Ziggy Ansah and Willie Young if not handled well, can cause some problems when rushing the passer. Suh and Fairley are both a load to deal with inside at the tackle spot. For a man the size of Suh, it is surprising how athletic he really is. There was not one play where he appeared to be laboring or struggling to either get off and block or get up the field in a pass rush.
Where Suh causes the most problems is with his power and how he makes blockers to have to deal with it. I have seen him carry a blocker to the quarterback and with one arm, reach around that blocker to pull the quarterback down. In the past, teams have tried to take advantage of using his aggressive nature against him by allowing him up the field and trying to work the ball under him. There have been times where this has been the right way to attack him.
Ziggy Ansah is a raw rookie from BYU that can bring some pressure off the edge. Where I thought it would take Ansah some time, it was going to be how he needed to learn to play the run but this is an area, where he has not struggled as badly. Now on the other side, Willie Young, is a lighter looking player on film and like Ansah, really wants to get up the field in a hurry. What the Cowboys like to do scheme wise against these four man lines is try and trap these tackles and ends to create some running opportunities. The draw with DeMarco Murray, is also a play that should be in the game plan.
Like when this Cowboys offense faced the Eagles last week, it is another group of aggressive linebackers. Stephen [embedded_ad] Tulloch plays in the middle, with Ashlee Palmer and DeAndre Levy on the outside. Levy did a nice job of securing an interception against the Browns, carrying a route down the sideline, but keep an eye on how these coaches attack these linebackers. Tulloch will tend to overrun plays and teams have used boots and waggles to take advantage of these linebackers and with the mobile of Tony Romo and these tight ends, it might make for some simple throws.
I was a fan of Chris Houston while he was playing with the Falcons and since has been traded to the Lions and is the starter at left corner. Rashean Mathis is the starter on the right side and on tape is not as good as Houston is. Mathis doesn't transition as well as Houston does in coverage and when he has to get out of his pedal, there are some struggles. Mathis tends to let receivers get inside of him more than Houston on routes. I also felt like that Houston did a much better job of battling for the ball instead of Mathis. Look for Bill Callahan and this offensive staff, to take some vertical shots on Mathis who struggled against the Browns on some "9" routes.
At safety, Louis Delmas is a much better player against the run, than he is on the pass. Glover Quin did not show up as much in the games that I studied. The one shot that he had to make a tackle in space, he was unable to wrap up and make the play. These Cowboys tight ends, will be a ton of pressure on these linebackers and safeties to have to match them in coverage.