2017 NFL Season Preview- Detroit Lions
Despite losing their best player in Calvin Johnson to retirement, Detroit played better than expected.
After starting 1-3, the Lions won eight of their next nine in the middle of the season. In that span, Detroit set a modern day NFL record with eight come from behind victories. However, the Lions squandered a two game division lead by losing their final three regular season games and lost to Seattle in the NFC wildcard game.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford had one of his better seasons despite dealing with an injury to his throwing hand sown the stretch. For as good as Stafford, he could have been so much better with a decent running game. Running backs Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick ended the year on injured reserve and Detroit finished with the third worst rushing offense in the league. Despite spending two first round picks in the last decade on tight ends, the Lions are terribly thin at the position. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin led the team in receptions in his 14th season and was a valuable veteran presence on and off the field. The team spent three picks on offensive linemen last year and the line is still incomplete.
The defensive line has all their key players locked up under contract, but it still needs upgrades across the board. The line needs more pass rushing help both on the inside and on the edge. Weak side linebacker DeAndre Levy has missed most of the last two seasons with injuries and isn't the impact player he was in 2014. The secondary is signed for awhile which will allow the team to focus on other issues. The team could use a number two cornerback to pair with Darius Slay as Nevin Lawson is better suited as a nickel corner.
Even though they made the playoffs, the Lions only had one Pro Bowler in kicker Matt Prater. Prater has one of the strongest legs in the game making 86% of his field goals on the year.
The rookie class had their moments and the team hopes they can build on it. Tackle Taylor Decker looks to be Detroit's long term solution at left tackle. Defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson already has a reputation as a good run defender and the Lions believe he will also develop as a pass rusher. Center Graham Glasgow played better at left guard than center, but will start somewhere on the line next year. Safety Miles Killebrew saw a lot of time in the dime defense and should have a bigger role in 2017. Quarterback Jake Ruddock started the year on the practice squad but looks to be Stafford's backup in the future.
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 11th
NFL Rank- 30th
NFL Rank- 19th
NFL Rank- 18th
NFL Rank- 21st
NFL Rank- 18th
Going 9-7 in his third season in Detroit, head coach Jim Caldwell has to keep the Lions moving in the right direction despite losing their final four games.
Notable Additions- RB Matt Asiata, WR Jared Abbrederis, TE Darren Fells, T Cyrus Kouandijo, T Greg Robinson, G TJ Lang, DT Jordan Hill, DT Akeem Spence, CB DJ Hayden
Notable Departures- QB Dan Orlovsky, RB Joique Bell, WR Anquan Boldin, WR Andre Roberts, TE Clay Harbor, T Riley Reiff, G Larry Warford, LB DeAndre Levy, LB John Bostic
Matthew Stafford 2016 Highlights
2017 NFL Draft
Holding the 21st overall pick going into the draft, Detroit had to address holes at key positions. Especially at running back, defensive end, and linebacker.
Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick finished the year on injured reserve. Zach Zenner made some plays late in the season, but the team needs a dynamic, every down back who can do it all.
Other than Ziggy Ansah, the Lions don't have anyone who consistently puts pressure on the quarterback. With Armonty Bryant out the first four games with a substance abuse suspension, a playmaking defensive end is a priority.
The Lions have next to no depth at linebacker. With the team releasing DeAndre Levy, the defense needs a three down linebacker.
On draft day, Detroit decided to pick Florida middle linebacker Jarrad Davis with the 21st selection. Davis was seen as the top linebacker in pass coverage but his smaller size and durability issues limits him to certain schemes.
The Lions also notably drafted Florida cornerback Teez Tabor in the second round, Toledo tight end Michael Roberts in the fourth, and Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya in the sixth. Tabor was viewed as the top coverage cornerback in the draft but fell out of the first round due to a poor 40 time at the NFL Combine. Roberts was said to have the best hands of any tight end in the class but lacks the burst teams look for in tight ends these days. Kaaya has the touch to make all the necessary NFL throws but shows too much hesitation from inside the pocket.
Jarrad Davis Highlights
What to Expect
Given that eight of the Lions nine wins were fourth quarter comebacks, its not a formula for winning long term.
Matthew Stafford has played some of his best football with Jim Bob Cooter as his offensive coordinator. Stafford should continue to have success with the help of a running game. Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick can make plays when healthy and Matt Asiata can get the tough yards between the tackles. Losing Anquan Boldin and Andre Roberts hurts, so the offense will have to rely on Golden Tate to return to Pro Bowl form and get production from Marvin Jones, Jace Billingsley, and Jared Abbrederis. Signing three offensive linemen two replace Riley Reiff and Larry Warford should give the offense enough bodies to find a winning combination.
The defensive line added more depth at defensive tackle but they haven't done anything to give Ziggy Ansah help in the pass rush. Jarrad Davis will have a big workload trying to replace DeAndre Levy's production and the group still lacks depth to give him help. DJ Hayden was a disappointment for Oakland but he might be a capable number two for Darius Slay. Glover Quinn still has a couple good years at free safety and Tavon Wilson is a capable strong safety.
Given the uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball, there's a lot of pressure for Matt Stafford and the offense to pull off victories each week and after awhile that will just be exhausting.
Best record they can hope for: 8-8