ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The last time we saw the Detroit Lions defense, it wasn't a pretty picture.
The Lions were getting picked apart by Green Bay reserve quarterback Matt Flynn in the final regular-season game and then New Orleans Drew Brees in the playoffs.
Detroit allowed 45 points in both of those losses. Flynn passed for 480 yards and six touchdowns. Brees went for 466 yards and three scores.
It was not a good feeling to take into the offseason.
We didnt hold up our end of the deal, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. The offense was really playing well late in the season. Defensively, we didnt play well enough to have success, especially in the playoffs.
And that eats at him.
The question is whether the defense will be improved when the Lions take the field at Ford Field on Sept. 9 for their season opener against St. Louis.
If so, exactly how is that going to happen?
The Lions return 10 of their 11 defensive starters from last season, losing only cornerback Eric Wright, who signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay.
Detroit used its first two draft picks on offensive players, but then took cornerback Bill Bentley (Louisiana-Lafayette) in the third round, linebackerdefensive end Ronnell Lewis (Oklahoma) in the fourth round, linebacker Tahir Whitehead (Temple) and cornerback Chris Greenwood (Albion) in the fifth round, cornerback Jonte Green (New Mexico State) in the sixth round and linebacker Travis Lewis (Oklahoma) in the seventh round. Ronnell Lewis and Travis Lewis are not related.
The question is can any of them contribute immediately?
I guess thats yet to be seen, coach Jim Schwartz said. Drafting them doesnt do anything other than drafting them.
They have to play well in preseason and training camp and they have to prove their draft status. I dont want to minimize how excited we are about those guys. We are (excited).
The Lions certainly could use the three cornerbacks to be on the fast track in development.
The club also signed cornerback Jacob Lacey, a free-agent corner from Indianapolis.
At this point, the starting secondary could be comprised of Chris Houston and Aaron Berry at cornerback, with Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey at safety.
If so, the problems from late last season might not be gone.
There were reports the Lions tried to move up in the first round of the draft, perhaps to land one of the draft's top cornerbacks, either South Carolinas Stephon Gilmore or Alabamas Dre Kirkpatrick.
But they ended up settling for defensive prospects in the later rounds who are much less likely to make an impact in 2012.
The draft is not the finish line, general manager Martin Mayhew reiterated when asked about the state of the secondary. We have a lot of work to do on our football team. Weve got some good, young players in our secondary. I thought injuries really hurt us late last year.
Were still adding to our team. Weve got some free-agency period left.
Schwartz came to the Lions in 2009 after eight years as a defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. Giving up 45 points in back-to-back games to close the season had to be an embarrassing experience for a man with his background.
The Lions finished No. 23 in the league in points allowed, No. 23 in total defense, No. 23 in rush defense and No. 22 in pass defense.
Nevertheless, Schwartz said he likes the mentality of his teams defense, led by players such as Vanden Bosch, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, defensive end Cliff Avril and linebacker Stephen Tulloch.
They didnt like the way they finished last year," Schwartz said. "I dont think anybody was happy with it. Theres a lot of character there. Theres a lot of hard work. You rely on that to be able to bounce back from those situations.
Schwartz, on the raggedy haircut that first-round pick Riley Reiff, an offensive lineman from Iowa, was sporting during his introductory press conference Friday: We do need to get him hooked up with Lady Janes (a local hair salon). That was an offensive linemans haircut right there. Hes going to have to take a step up when he gets to the NFL.
Told that Reiffs mother, Jo, owns a hair salon in South Dakota, Schwartz added: I think shes probably walking away from that (Rileys haircut).
... The Lions draft picks will be back in town May 11-13 for a rookie mini-camp.