2014 Season Preview:
The Lions last year finally looked to be taking that final step last year, 6-3 and making buzz- then a few months later, and you are 7-9 and fire everyone. Now 4 of those games were by a field goal, so a winning season should have been in reach.
The Lions bring in Jim Caldwell, who wasn’t exactly impressive in Indy, and added another offensive mind in Joe Lombardi, who has been with Drew Brees for 5 years. If they can reverse the decline of Matthew Stafford, then the Lions could finally make some noise.
All 5 guys are back, and they had a great year last year. Riley Reiff can be a solid left tackle, but does get beat far too often to be elite. Rob Sims is coming into a contract year, Dominic Raiola is one the better centers- but he’s been in the league 13 years, third rounder Travis Swanson is the understudy. Larry Warford had a great rookie year at right guard, and LaAdrian Waddle can be his teammate for a long time. Add into this the quick release of Stafford and this line can be one of the better ones in the NFL.
Stafford turned into Matt Schaub without all the press the last half of the year, giving the ball up 14 times in that 7 game nightmare streach. Counter that with only 19 picks the entire year, and you see how good Stafford can be. Stafford has a great arm, and he has decent vision, but the problem comes when he hears footsteps, or tries to throw on the move, or when defenses get confusing. Stafford has to show the ability to grab the game by the throat and make things happen, and so far he has yet to do that.
Dan Orlovsky is the new backup, with Shaun Hill gone. I’m sure the Lions will be excited to see him under center.
Still missing Barry Sanders, but the Lions last year but did something no team in NFL history has ever done. Have two backs get over 500 rushing and 500 receiving yards in the same season. Bush actually cracked 1000 yards. This is a great tandem, and being able to use them effectively could be a challenge early in the year. Bell, thankfully is a power back, so the Lions do have a slight ability to close out a game.
Some dude named Calvin Johnson is out there. He’s pretty good. He’s starting to get beat up a bit, and dropped under 1500 yards. He’s still one of the best weapons in the game. Golden Tate was the big get in free agency, and while never being a star, can be a viable number 2 option, replacing
Eric Ebron is the tight end to nail down that position for a long time, and he is one HUGE target. The problem is, Brandon Pettigrew who still is there, but is much better as a blocker than a target and Joseph Fauria is also a huge target and was second on the team with 7 TDs. If the Lions run a 2 tight end set, this could be a monster lineup. The running backs are receiving threats as well. The Lions are blessed with weapons, but it all comes down to Stafford.
NDAMUKONG SUH people! He was a beast last year, and as long as he stays away from Roger Goddell, the Lions should be happy. Ziggy Ansah has a good year as a rookie and could end up being a star, Nick Fairly has a tendency to vanish during games, reminds me a lot of a poor-man’s Julius Peppers, Jason Jones is the final member on the front line, and missed last year with a knee injury. If he’s back 100% this could be one of the best units in the league- on the games Fairly shows up.
This unit could be interesting, Kyle Van Noy is going to be the designated rusher, while the other two help in coverage where DeAndre Levy excels. Levy is also very good against the run, but has problems getting to the passer. Depth is going to be a problem, as there is a pretty good dropoff when guys like Cory Greenwood come into play.
The Lions secondary has problems. Like major problems. Darius Slay and Rashean Morris should be the starters, since Chris Houston lost all confidence last year, and fourth rounder Nevon Lawson could earn time. James Ihedigbo comes over from Baltimore to take over the Strong Safety spot, and Glover Quin has good range at free safety, but isn’t much of a hitter. This unit is helped by how good some of the linebackers are in coverage. I’m sure there was no one around at 10th overall that could have helped here.
The Lions are an oddity in the NFL where both the punter and the kicker have been drafted. Sam Martin was a solid rookie last year- and Nate Freese is one of the few seventh rounder that needs to produce. The coverage units are solid, and Jeremy Ross kept control of the ball, something that got him ran out of Green Bay.
Again the drafting of Eric Ebron. I do love the player, and I think he’s going to be a standout, but the problem is, is he that much of an upgrade? The way the Lions can spray the ball around, is he worth it? Can they make him worth that? Pettigrew and Fauria combined for 59 catches for 625 yards and 9TDs. Most teams would be happy with that. Looking at the holes on this team, wouldn’t that have been the better move?
The Lions are a hard team to figure.
Are they the team they were in the beginning of the year? Are they the team that fell apart late in the year?
I do love the offense here, I have big problems with the defense. That front four can be a B*tch to deal with, but that linebacker corps has problems and that secondary can be burnt. The Lions really didn’t lose anyone in the offseason, and I think it comes down to the coaching staff as to how much they improve. I’m not a fan of Jim Caldwell’s original run, but again there is just too much talent on this team to be too bad. I can see a 10-6 record and the final week against the Packers deciding the NFC North title. Coming into the playoffs, I cannot see them as threat.
EJ: If you read The Blog About Nothing 8/1 Edition then you’ll already know how I feel about the Lions. Oh, you haven’t read it? No problem, but finish reading this first before you go check that out. So, the Lions? Matthew Stafford and the Lions have been knocking on the door of a winning season and a playoff berth the past few seasons and haven’t quite been able to enter it. Hard to imagine when you have All-World Calvin Johnson to throw to, and a running back duo of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Add to that group Super Bowl winning wide receiver Golden Tate and rookie tight end Eric Ebron, and a potent offensive unit is only better. This offense should be a fantasy football player’s dream. Coach Caldwell, and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi should do big things with this unit.
The defense? Also pretty good. Suh is a beast. If he can just avoid the foolish outbursts on and off the field, he’ll have a huge year. Nick Fairley needs to be better but the potential is there. With tackles like Suh and Fairley, expect Ziggy Ansah to go off. He’s a freak athlete, but a raw football player, but I think this is the year he gets it going. He’s not new to the NFL now, so he needs to play like he’s done this before. The front seven is great, but that secondary? Ouch. If the front seven gets the job done, then maybe that group can come down with some interceptions but for the Lions to have a successful year that front seven is going to have to play out of this world.
So, if you did read that 8/1 edition of The Blog About Nothing, you’d already know that I think the Lions will win the NFC North and finish with a 11-5 record. The Lions are going to have to play and win some shootouts, but it’s hard for me to look at that offense and not think this is not only a playoff team, but a team that could play in the NFC Title Game. As a matter of fact that’s what I’m putting on this Lions team. 11-5 and a NFC Title Game appearance.
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