Football Nation Preview: The 2013 Detroit Lions
2012 Record: 4-12
It might seem hard to find fault in an offense whose poster boy is the very Calvin Johnson who shattered Jerry Rice's receiving yards record (as well as the Madden Curse) with 1964 yards.
But Megatron seemed to be the only bright spot of the bunch.
Matthew Stafford regressed from his 2011 form, throwing almost as many picks (17) as touchdowns (20, down from 41).
Once again, he had to throw for nearly 5,000 yards, thanks to defensive ineptitude, and the near non-existence of the running game.
Perhaps the "non-existent" part is a bit harsh, considering Detroit topped 1,600 yards as a team, but they still ranked 23rd in the league.
Mikel LeShoure led the team with 798 yards, but averaged just 3.7 YPA. Joique Bell averaged 5.0 YPA, but had only 82 carries (414 yards).
Defense Not Aggressive Enough
The Lions gave up 27.3 PPG in 2012, good for sixth worst in the league. But it's odd: they ranked 14th in pass defense, and 16th in run defense. How could the Lions give up four more points than they scored on average, and lose 12 games?
One of the biggest knocks against the Lions' D is their lack of turnover creation. Detroit only had 17 takeaways, including 11 interceptions (tied for seventh lowest) and 6 fumble recoveries (tied for sixth lowest). There were six games in which the Lions didn't create a single turnover, of which they went 1-5.
In addition, their pass rushing took a bit of a tumble. After producing 41 sacks in 2011, the number dropped to 33 a season ago. A big part of that regression was the aging Kyle Vanden Bosch accumulating only 3.5 sacks, his lowest total since 2009.
2013 Projected Wins: 7
Top 3 Rookies
-Ezekiel Ansah, DE (1/5): Ghana native has thunderous strength that rocks linemen after the snap, and galloping strides that make it easier to chase down prey in the backfield.
-Darius Slay, CB (4/36): Sizable defensive back possesses intuitive recognition of routes, but generally lacks the physically to punish or intimidate would-be receivers.
-Larry Warford, G (3/65): Burly lineman takes up lots of horizontal space, and has exceptional balance for his size, but is considerably slow because of his girth.
In addition to bolstering the defensive line and secondary through April's Draft, the Lions went whole hog on day one of free agency. Versatile defensive tackle Jason Jones joins the team, having known Jim Schwartz and Jim Washburn from Tennessee. Former Texans safety Glover Quin also comes to the Motor City on a five-year deal.
In an attempt to give the Lions some kind of consistent, as well as less predictable, running attack, Reggie Bush was signed after two quality years as the Dolphins' starter. Mixing and matching with LeShoure and Bell could harken back to Bush's days in New Orleans' platoon. David Akers comes in as kicker, replacing the retired Jason Hanson.
The team parted ways with troubled receiver Titus Young (before his triumvirate of arrests in May), but re-signed, to considerable deals, cornerback Chris Houston, linebacker DeAndre Levy, and safety Louis Delmas (who was held out of OTAs as an injury risk).
Potential Starting Lineup
QB - Matthew Stafford
RB - Reggie Bush
WR - Calvin Johnson
WR - Nate Burleson
TE - Brandon Pettigrew
TE - Tony Scheffler
LT - Riley Reiff
LG - Rob Sims
C - Dominic Raiola
RG - Larry Warford
RT - Corey Hilliard
DE - Jason Jones
DT - Nick Fairley
DT - Ndamukong Suh
DE - Ezekiel Ansah
OLB - Ashlee Palmer
MLB - Stephen Tulloch
OLB - DeAndre Levy
CB - Chris Houston
CB - Darius Slay
FS - Glover Quin
SS - Louis Delmas
K - David Akers
P - Sam Martin
LS - Don Muhlbach