For the next installment on our 32 NFL Team breakdown, we’ll be reviewing the Detroit Lions. Detroit has somewhat turned things around since their winless 2008 season. They took a step back though in 2012, finishing 4-12, but 8 of their loses were decided by 7 points or less, and really could have gone the other way. Since Schwartz was hired in ’09, he’s posted a 22-42 record in the Regular Season and is 0-1 in the Playoffs. If he wants to get his team back to the Playoffs in 2013, he’s going to need the 6th ranked Defense in giving up the most points to show some improvement. This upcoming season will be a make-or-break year for Coach Jim Schwartz.
Offense: Detroit has one of the most talented Offenses in the NFL. They were 3rd overall in Total Offense last season, ranking 2nd in passing, but only ranked 23 in rushing. Quarterback Matt Stafford has silenced many of the injury prone concerns and has had an amazing last 32 regular season games. He’s thrown for over 1o,ooo yards and combined for 65 total touchdowns. The Lions had the number one team in passing 1st downs with 272 in 2012, thanks to Stafford. I question if his arm will be able to hold up long term, as he’s posted 1,390 passing attempts over that time frame as well. Detroit needs to become more two dimensional on Offense and tried to address the Running Back situation during the Offseason. They brought in Reggie Bush through Free Agency, who fits this Offense very well. It has similar characteristics to the one he played with in New Orleans. Bush had become more of a duel-threat RB the past 2 seasons he spent in Miami, improving his ground game, rushing for 2,072 yards and 12 touchdowns. Mikel Leshoure hasn’t lived up to his expectations since being drafted 57th overall in 2010 due to injuries. He played last season but had a disappointing 3.7 yards per carry. Joique Bell went un-drafted in 2010 and after bouncing around 5 other NFL teams, finally found a home and some playing time in Detroit. Bell rushed for 414 yards, at 5.0 yards per carry and also caught 52 balls for 485 yards. Bell is a strong possibility to backup Bush next season, but I believe Notre Dame draft pick Theo Riddick has a good chance as well. Riddick is more of a power back but, in a continuing trend, can catch the ball out of the backfield as well. I believe Bell will solidify himself as the number 2 back to begin the season, while LeShoure and Riddick fight for the 3rd spot on the depth chart. You can’t talk about the Detroit Lions without mentioning Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson. Calvin is a Top 10 player in the NFL and arguably the best WR it has to offer. Last season was stellar for the stud WR; he had 1,964 yards receiving, but only scored 5 touchdowns. Teams have been inventing crazy schemes to stop him inside the 20 and he needs to find a way to get around that in 2013. Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, Mike Thomas, Kris Durham and Corey Fuller join Calvin. Burleson should start out as the number 2 guy, since Broyles is recovering from an ACL injury he suffered near the end of the season last year. Mike Thomas was traded for during the last season and is more of a slot guy. Kris Durham raised a few eyebrows from time to time in the 4 games he played last season and will be looking to build off of that. Fuller is a bit of a wildcard. He was productive at Virginia Tech but might be put on the practice squad to begin 2013. The Lions might have stolen a Guard in the Draft when they selected Larry Warford 65th overall. I believe Warford was overlooked by many and heard a few teams had a 1st round grade on him. He should win one of the starting Guard spots during training camp, with Rob Sims winning the other. Center Dominic Raiola has been a staple of the Detroit Offensive Line for the last 11 years. He’s started 176 games over that time frame and is the anchor of the Offensive front. At Left Tackle will be Riley Reiff, who will be making the switch over from the right side in his 2nd season in the NFL. The Right Tackle position is sort of in a flux as Corey Hilliard and un-drafted rookie, LaAdrian Waddle, will battle in camp. This Offense can’t get too much better except for along the line. If they can get the running game to be effective, Defense’s will have their hands full on Sundays.
Defense: Ndamukong Suh has been the face of the Defense since being selected 2nd overall in the 2010 Draft. Suh has put Quarterbacks on their back 22 times since then, and commands a double team when on the field. Nick Fairley is on the opposite side of Suh at the Defensive Tackle position. Fairley was “fairly” impressive in his 2nd season, recording 5.5 sacks. In my personal opinion, I believe they’re the best D-Tackle duo in the game. At Defensive End the Lions will have rookie Ezekiel Ansah, who was selected with the 5th overall pick in the Draft. Ansah was a standout talent in his Senior Year at BYU, and his first season should be easier than most being along side of Suh and Fairley. Starting at the other Defensive End position will Jason Jones, who is going into his 6th year in the NFL, and his 1st with the Lions. This group of talent should put enough pressure on Quarterbacks to cause the Secondary to see many interceptions. Cornerback, Chris Houston, will be looking have the same numbers he put up in 2011 when he recorded a career high 5 interceptions. Bill Bentley was drafted last season and many thought he would be an instant impact at Corner, but battled a shoulder injury that eventually took him out for the year after only seeing 4 games. This year the Lions drafted Darius Slay out of Mississippi State with the 36th overall pick, and I feel he might win the number 2 corner job in camp over Bentley. The Safety position is where the questions really start for this Defense. Fans are growing impatient with Strong Safety Louis Delmas’s injury concerns, but he’s an impact when he can be on the field healthy. If Delmas misses more time due to injury again in 2013, he might start to get Bob Sanders comparisons. The Lions signed Glover Quin from Houston via Free Agency to play Free Safety, in an attempt to add some stability, as he’s started 60 career games and had 48 pass deflections. Detroit has a decent set of Linebackers. Stephen Tulloch starts at Middle Linebacker with DeAndre Levy and Ashlee Palmer getting the duties of starting Outside Linebackers. Palmer is the less experienced; he’s only started 9 games over the past 4 seasons, and will be looking to prove that his play can match the level, if not better than, Tulloch or Levy. The Defense is the key to this team in the 2013 campaign. If they can rise to the occasion and put their Offense on the field more by hindering opponents, this team will go far.
End Result: I feel the Lions will finish around 10-6 in the upcoming season and place 2nd in the NFC North.