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2015 NFL Season Preview- Detroit Lions
By all accounts, Detroit exceeded all expectations for 2014.
The offense had its ups and downs. The team had a stretch of three straight come from behind victories against New Orleans, Atlanta, and Miami. But after those three comebacks, the offense failed to score a touchdown in losses to Arizona and New England. The offense was expected to be a force but instead was just average. Detroit scored more than 24 points just three times and never scored more than 35. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was hot and cold all year. He showed improvement in his decision making as he only threw 12 interceptions after three straight seasons of 16+ interceptions. The problem was he still missed too many open receivers and was just average or worse in every other statistical category. Running back Joique Bell established himself as the starter after Reggie Bush spent much of the year injured. Wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate formed one of the best receiving duos in football. Tate finished in the top 10 in receptions and yards. Johnson missed three games with injury but still finished with over 1,000 receiving yards.
Detroit's defense was incredible. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was the best player on the defense as he consistently collapsed the pocket and stuffed the run. Darryl Tapp was a great run stopper, Ziggy Ansah was a great pass rusher, and Jason Jones was good at both. Linebacker DeAndre Levy was a monster, finishing second in the league in tackles and first in solo tackles. Stephen Tulloch was lost for the year after he tore his ACL in week 3 and it really hurt the run defense. Glover Quinn and James Ibedigbo formed one of the best safety tandems in football. Ihedigbo was the enforcer and Quinn was the cover man as he led the league with seven interceptions.
The special teams was a disaster for much of the year. Detroit went through three kickers before settling with Matt Prater. Sam Martin had a good season punting but couldn't deal with pressure as evidence in his 10 yard punt against Dallas.
The rookie class for the most part was a disappointment. Tight end Eric Ebron showed flashes but he has to improve his hands and blocking ability. Outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy struggled with the complex defensive scheme after starting the year on the PUP list.
Lions 2014 Rankings
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 12th
NFL Rank- 28th
NFL Rank- 13th
NFL Rank- 1st
NFL Rank- 19th
NFL Rank- 2nd
After finishing the season 11-5, head coach Jim Caldwell performed much better than people expected in his first season. The key for him will be to carry that success on to year two when dealing with many player personnel decisions.
Notable Additions- WR Lance Moore, WR Greg Salas, DT Haloti Ngata, CB Josh Wilson, S Taylor Mays
Notable Departures- RB Reggie Bush, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Nick Fairley, DT C.J. Mosley
Lions 2014 Highlights
2015 NFL Draft
Going into the draft, Detroit held the 23rd overall pick with many positions needed to be filled. Most notably at running back, offensive tackle, and defensive tackle.
Reggie Bush is now in San Francisco and Joique Bell will be 29 and isn't a top level runner. The Lions need a big play threat at the position.
The pass protection and run blocking desperately needs an upgrade. There isn't a suitable right tackle on the roster.
Detroit was unable to resign Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, or C.J. Mosley. They traded for Haloti Ngata, but the need a replacement for the other defensive tackles.
Detroit ended up trading back with Denver so the Broncos could select Missouri defensive end Shane Ray. The ended up selecting Duke guard Laken Tomlinson with the 28th overall pick. Tomlinson has all of the intangibles to be a great guard as he started 52 straight games for the Blue Devils but he lacks mobility and range.
The Lions also notably drafted Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round. Abdullah has great work ethic and was extremely productive for the Cornhuskers but he's smaller than the ideal running back and has a history with bad ball security.
Ameer Abdullah Highlights
What to Expect
After losing three key defensive lineman, its hard to see Detroit returning to the playoffs.
Matthew Stafford continues to be a work in progress and you don't know which side of him you will get each week. Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah can be good complements of each other at the running back spot. Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are going to be dominant but the receivers and tight ends need to step up and perform. Adding Laken Tomlinson to the offense should solidify the line and make them stout.
The team added Haloti Ngata but he hasn't played in a 4-3 defense in a while. Stephen Tulloch will be back healthy which should help the run defense and DeAndre Levy can back to his coverage skills. The secondary should only be better after adding Josh Wilson.
Haloti Ngata is a dominant force I Baltimore, but its own how he'll fit into Detroit's defensive scheme. With losing three defensive linemen to free agency, I see the team taking a slight step back.
Best record they can hope for: 9-7