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2014 NFL Season Preview- Detroit Lions
By drafting BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah and picking up running back Reggie Bush, the Detroit Lions were looking to step up from an embarrassing 4-12 2012 season.
They possessed a quarterback in Matthew Stafford that ranked third in the league and a wide receiver in Calvin Johnson who was the NFL's third leading receiver. They had the sixth most productive offense, the second best red zone defense, and the leagues best third-down defense. The team won in Chicago for the first time since 2007 and won its first Thanksgiving day game since 2003
And yet, the team limped their way through the second half of the season to finish 7-9. The team lost six of its final seven games and winless in the entire month of December. The team had the lead in the fourth quarter in all of those six loses the team squandered their lead in each one.
Stafford's level of play diminished in this stretch. In the final eight games of the year, he completed less than 55% of his passes and threw just as many interceptions as touchdowns.
Ziggy Ansah led all rookies with eight sacks and also forced two fumbles. Third round pick guard Larry Warford was voted the best right guard in the NFC north and sixth rounder running back Theo Riddick developed into a contributing role in the offense. And for the first time since 1997, the Lions had two players selected to the All-Pro team in Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Because of their inept play in the second half of the year, head coach Jim Schwartz was fired after five seasons.
Lions 2013 Rankings
Opponent Passing yds
Opponent Rushing yds
NFL Rank- 3rd
NFL Rank- 17th
NFL Rank- 23rd
NFL Rank- 6th
NFL Rank- 6th
NFL Rank- 16th
After firing five year head coach Jim Schwartz, the team looked for a coach that could help improve Matthew Stafford's consistency. Their search brought them to Jim Caldwell.
Caldwell won a Super Bowl in 2012 as the Ravens offensive coordinator. He also was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts for three seasons and led them to a Super Bowl appearance in his first year.
In March, Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. passed away at age 88. Ownership of the team remains in the Ford family with his wife Martha being the majority owner.
Notable additions- WR Golden Tate, DE Darryl Tapp, SS James Ihedigbo
Notable departures- WR Nate Burleson, FS Louis Delmas, DE Israel Idonije
Calvin Johnson Highlights
2014 NFL Draft
The team held the 10th overall selection in the draft and had several holes that needed filled. Primarily the team needed wide receivers, safeties, and a kicker.
Calvin Johnson is widely considered the best wide receiver in the NFL. And with a reputation like that, the receiver has to go up against double teams week in and week out. The team picked up Golden Tate in free agency, but he is more of a slot, third-down receiver. The team needs someone similar to Megatron in terms of stretching the field and generating double coverage to them.
The safety position is also in question. Louis Delmas knee problems ultimately led to his release and the safeties on the roster now aren't the caliber that Delmas once was.
The issue of kicker is a concern to declining play of David Akers. Since Jason Hanson retired, the team doesn't have a reliable kicker to rely on when the game comes down to a few points.
When time came for the Lions to pick at 10, they surprised everyone by selecting North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron. Ebron was considered the top tight end in the draft and possessed the best attributes. The knock on him was that he wasn't strong enough to get off the line and like most tight ends today, he needs to learn to block. This pick was questionable because the team had just signed the Lions current tight end Brandon Pettigrew to a four year deal.
The team also selected BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the second round. Van Noy was considered the best tackling outside linebacker in the draft but was also criticized for having a bad senior year.
Eric Ebron Highlights
What to Expect
Matthew Stafford will definitely have more targets to throw to, but I have a feeling Jim Caldwell will rely more on Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Mikel Leshoure, and Theo Riddick running the ball. Stafford has thrown the ball all over the place and his interception numbers are rising. He also need to improve his footwork in order to put less strain on his arm.
The teams defense will remain dominant as long as the front four remain fierce and apply the pressure when needed. Linebackers like Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy can set the tone of a game with their play and cornerback Darius Clay has the potential to be the teams top corner.
This team will live or die at the hands of Matthew Stafford. If he can improve his footwork and cut down on his interceptions, the team is going to e successful. If he can't, it will be another disappointing year for Detroit.
Best record they can hope for- 9-7