Season Previews: Detroit Lions

Season Previews:

det-lions-helmetDetroit Lions

Jim Caldwell might actually have a pulse. From a guy that seemed to just stand there and have the best seat in the house  to watch Peyton Manning to someone that might actually be able to do something. Joe Lombardi is back, after not getting a head coaching job. The Lions have some serious rebuilding to do, after losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley- who brought a lot of baggage but a lot of talent to the defense. They did make the playoffs, however, but the NFC is never an easy road to go down, and the Packers always seem a step ahead.

Offense

Ok, Stafford, its time to put up or shut up time. He cut down on his interceptions, finally. I guess he didn’t want to get that Cutler tag, but lets compare here.

Matthew StaffordQB1 3812 yards, 28- TDs and 18 Picks

QB2 4257 Yards 22TDs 12 Ints

Who is the better QB? Lets just say that one of those QBs has Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate- and its not the one with 28 TDs. The other one is throwing to his running back, tight end and Alshon Jeffery, So either we need to take a harder look at Stafford, or back off on Cutler a hair, right?

Here is where you tell me that numbers don’t mean anything, but just saying.

I’m sure both Barry Sanders and the Lions wish he was playing, cause he never had the QB and WR they have now, and they can’t find a running back half as good as he was. The Reggie Bush Experiment was an utter failure, and he’s gone, and it seems like Caldwell wants a power running game, drafting Michael Burton as a blocker and handing the starting job to second rounder Ameer Abdullah plus Joique Bell is back there as well. Expect a lot of thudding into the line from this group. Abdullah does have good speed though.

Calvin JohnsonOn the outside, If we have Calvin Johnson, near 80% he’s  one of the best in the game. He did miss 3 games, but still awesome. Golden Tate put up 99 catches, but only 4 TDs, If 100% this is one of the best tandems in the NFL. Of course, Calvin Johnson and I could be one of the better tandems in the NFL, the issue here, is there is NO ONE who can take over if one of the twosome get hurt, or if the Lions go three wide. Corey Fuller has some size, but doesn’t run the best routes or show up on game day (something I would have never guessed watching him at Va Tech) and they did bring in Lance Moore, who runs great routes, but has lost not only 5th gear, but 4th  as well.

Tight End is a problem, Brandon Pettigrew took the money and ran, but has not exactly been worth the money. He’s regressed as a blocker, but the Lions can’t move on from him because Eric Ebron has been an utter failure as a rookie with only 1 TD catch. At his size, he has to be better.

The Lions front line stunk on Ice last year, ranking 22nd in the NFL in sacks allowed. Two members are gone, replaced by First Round Pick Laken Tomlinson at LG and Third Rounder Travis Swanson should be the Center after a rookie year spent learning. Larry Worford is still at RG, and he’s well above average, and Riley Reiff has found a home at left tackle as dependable, but not spectacular. Right Tackle is going to be the problem, LaAdrian Waddle is still coming back from a torn ACL, so Cornelius Lucas will start the season. Waddle is a bit  better, but this is still a problem spot.

Defense

The Lions just added a great piece in Haloti Ngata to that top-tier DL rotation of CJ Mosley, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and George Johnson.
What do you mean all those guys are gone? Damn.
Still got Ezekiel Ansah, right? OK, so all is not lost- just most of it. Corey Wootton, Gabe Wright and Tyrunn Walker are going to be thrown in the fire as well trying to be the other tackle. James Jones is a good partner to throw in on the other DE position, but there is going to be some dropoff.

The next line did get someone back they missed last year in MLB Stephen Tulloch, who is a solid MLB, DeAndre Levy is one of the better outside linebackers, and Kyle Van Noy is solid on the other side. There is even some depth here, as Tulloch’s injury last year caused a lot of moving around, and everyone is back. This is a rock-solid place to build your defense.

The secondary is a pick your poison proposition.
You can either have damn solid corner-back/safety combo in CB Rashean Mathis and SS James Ihedigbo- who, sadly are 35 and 31, or you can have the young duo of CB Darius Slay and FS Glover Quin who are solid, but going to get expensive going forward. Its a good problem to have, and there are a TON of bodies behind them, mostly playing special teams but still showing some decent depth.

Special Teams

Pretty much everyone but Calvin Johnson and Haloti Ngata are going to get a chance to return kicks here. Sam Martin is a bit inconsistent as a punter, and Matt Prater is decent, but missed more kicks than one should in a dome.

Final.

LionsComes down to the trenches. If the Offensive Line can figure out a good Right Tackle, then if the defensive line can give the Lions ANY kind of pass rush, then watch out. If the offensive line caves in at the newcomers, and there is little passrush, then this team is going to have to try and outscore everyone. That could work on some teams, but the Packers are going to wipe the floor with them. I still think the Packers will win both games, but I’ll give them the other 4 wins in the division. I’m going to give them a 2-2 record vs the AFC West, with losses to the Broncos (too early in the season) and KC (Run Defense issues). I’ll give them another loss against the Seahawks- again on the road, but I think they can win both Bonus games vs the Saints and Eagles late in the year. In fact, outside of Green Bay at home on Dec 3, they might not lose after Thanksgiving. I’m thinking 11-5, but might hedge on 10-6 with a loss to Minny in week 2.

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