2019 NFL Season Preview- Detroit Lions
A year after firing Jim Caldwell for underachieving with a 9-7 record, the Lions were even more of a disappointment in 2018.
Detroit clinched their first losing season since 2015, making this their first losing season in the post Calvin Johnson era, and finished last in the NFC North for the first time since 2012.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a disappointing season as he struggled with turnovers early in the year a dealt with a back injury in the final month. For the first time he failed to throw for at least 4,000 yards while playing all 16 games. Running back LeGarrette Blount had next to nothing left as he turned 32. Theo Riddick wasn't the threat as a receiver he was in the past. The Lions had arguably the worst group of tight ends in the league. The team tried five different players at the position and none were really difference makers. Levine Toilolo showed flashes as a receiver in the final month but he and Luke Willson were major free agency busts overall. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay emerged as the team's No. 1 receiver but the team traded Golden Tate to Philadelphia midseason. Marvin Jones had an underwhelming season before injuring his knee. The offensive line was much improved from 2017, but was still just average. Left tackle Taylor Decker is a long term keeper, but right guard TJ Lang dealt with a neck injury and the sixth concussion of his career.
After the team traded for nose tackle Damon Harrison, the defense turned a corner. He teamed with A'Shawn Robinson to form a solid defensive tackle tandem. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah barely played due to injuries and only had four sacks. Romeo Okwara was a serviceable replacement to Ansah and led the team with 7.5 sacks but is not a game changing pass rusher by any means. Middle linebacker Jarrad Davis was one of the team's most improved players with six sacks but is still a bit of a work in progress. Outside linebacker Devon Kennard had a nice season as an edge rusher but isn't a true difference maker. Safety Quandre Diggs was arguably the team's best defensive back in his first year at his new position. Glover Quin saw his play slip as it was his first season without an interception since 2011. Cornerback Teez Tabor has been a major disappointment and has failed to develop into a starter.
The Lions were so bad on special teams, the team fired special teams coordinator Joe Marciano in early November. Kicker Matt Prater made 28 of his 32 kicks, but wasn't reliable from long distance. Punter Sam Martin has been a mess since signing his extension in 2016.
The team had two Pro Bowlers in cornerback Darius Slay and long snapper Don Muhlbach. Slay made his second straight Pro Bowl, but wasn't as consistent he was the year before. Muhlbach made his second Pro Bowl trip in his 15th season in Detroit.
The rookie class turned out some key starters for the team. Guard Frank Ragnow moved outside from center, playing all but one snap and should be the long term solution at left guard. Running back Kerryon Johnson transformed the league's worst rushing game and averaged 5.4 yards per carry before injuring his knee with six games left. Safety Tracy Walker played well enough as the third safety to be seen as the replacement for Glover Quin. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand had three sacks and two forced fumbles for the team's most improved position group. Tackle Tyrell Crosby started just one game, but could be the fulltime starter at either right tackle or right guard.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
With the 6-10 record, head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn are both on a bit of a hot seat to produce better results. Patricia has the defense on the right track, but needs to get the offense back to what it has been.
After the season, the Lions announced that Jim Bob Cooter would not return as offensive coordinator. The team then hired former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to be the new signal caller. Detroit also hired former Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego to be the new special teams coordinator.
Notable Additions- QB Tom Savage, QB Josh Johnson, RB CJ Anderson, WR Danny Amendola, WR Jermaine Kearse, TE Jesse James, TE Logan Thomas, DE Trey Flowers, DT Mike Daniels
Notable Departures- QB Matt Cassel, QB Jame Rudock, TB Theo Riddick, RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Bruce Ellington, TE Michael Roberts, TE Levine Toilolo, TE Luke Willson, G TJ Lang, DE Ziggy Ansah, LB Eli Harold, S Glover Quin
Lions 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Holding the eighth overall pick in the draft, the Lions have to make changes to lackluster positions. Most notably at tight end, defensive end, and cornerback.
The team signed two tight ends in free agency, but Jesse James has struggled with drops throughout his career and Logan Thomas is still learning the position as a converted quarterback.
Romeo Okwara and Da'Shawn Hand were both good, but the team needs an edge rusher who can consistently get to the quarterback now that Ziggy Ansah is in Seattle.
Teez Tabor has failed to crack the starting lineup and Nevin Lawson has zero interceptions in five years. The secondary needs a playmaker cornerback opposite Darius Slay.
When it came time to pick, Detroit selected Iowa tight end TJ Hockenson with the eighth overall pick. Hockenson is a complete mismatch for linebackers and safeties, but needs to sharpen up his route running.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii- Ideal NFL frame, lacks closing speed
Will Harris, S, Boston College- Top zone coverage safety, lacks recovery speed
Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson- Great quickness off the snap, needs to get stronger
Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State- Good size for man coverage, one year as a starter
Travis Fulgham, WR, Old Dominion- Big target, lacks great acceleration
Ty Johnson, RB, Maryland- Gold vision between the tackles, maturity concerns
Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia- Highly competitive, inconsistent production
PJ Johnson, DT, Arizona- Girthy bull rusher, stiff in his lower body
Notable Undrafted Free Agent Signings:
Tre Lamar, LB, Clemson- top run defending middle linebacker, lacks sideline to sideline speed
TJ Hockenson Highlights
What To Expect
Even though the Lions 2018 was marred by injuries, I don't see much improvement being made going into 2019.
Matthew Stafford is a solid quarterback when he is healthy and has a solid supporting cast. The hope is new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will get him back on track. Bevell's style offense has been known to rely on a strong running game, which means a lot will be asked of Kerryon Johnson. Johnson is a complete back but with his injury concerns, he could be splitting time with CJ Anderson. The tight end position is vastly improved from what it was last year. TJ Hockenson will likely be the starter and Jesse James being a solid backup and blocker. Kenny Golladay should continue to grow in his role as the team's top target and Travis Fulgham has the potential to supplant Marvin Jones as the No. 2 receiver. Danny Amendola is a solid slot receiver and Jermaine Kearse Gives the position more depth. The offensive line still has some questions on the right side with whether or not Tyrell Crosby can be a serviceable replacement for TJ Lang at right guard.
The team signed Trey Flowers to replace Ziggy Ansah, but I don't see anyone on the defensive line who can get 10 or more sacks in a season. Jarrad Davis should continue to grow in his third season and Devon Kennard could show some value as a pass rusher. Amani Oruwariye should be a solid complement to Darius Slay and Tracy Walker should play nicely along Quandre Diggs at safety.
The special teams won't have near the struggles of last year with a new coordinator, but Sam Martin could be replaced in training camp.
The Lions have a good foundation on defense and an offense on the rise, but they don't seem to match up well with the rest of the NFC North.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 7-9