UA-59049186-1 2017 NFL Team Preview: Detroit Lions - Good if it Goes

2017 NFL Team Preview: Detroit Lions

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Last Year:

Record: 9-7

Offense: 21.6 (20th)

Defense: 22.4 (13th)

Offseason: 

Key Acquisitions: OT. Ricky Wagner, OG. TJ Lang, CB. DJ Hayden

Key Losses: WR. Anquan Boldin, OT. Riley Reiff, OG. Larry Warford, DE. Devin Taylor, DT. Tyrunn Walker, LB. DeAndre Levy

2017 Draft Picks

RD(PK) PLAYER POS SCHOOL
1(21) Jarrad Davis ILB Florida
2(21) Teez Tabor CB Florida
3(32) Kenny Golladay WR Northern Illinois
4(18) Jalen Reeves-Maybin OLB Tennessee
4(21) Michael Roberts TE Toledo
5(21) Jamal Agnew CB San Diego
6(21) Jeremiah Ledbetter DE Arkansas
6(32) Brad Kaaya QB Miami (FL)
7(32) Pat O’Connor DE Eastern Michigan

2017 Outlook 

Coaching Staff

  • HC: Jim Caldwell
  • OC: Jim Bob Cooter
  • DC: Teryl Austin
  • ST: Joe Marciano

Offense

QB. Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock

RB. Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick

WR. Golden Tate, TJ Jones

WR. Marvin Jones, Jared Abbrederis

WR. Kenny Golladay

TE. Eric Ebron, Darren Fells

LT. Taylor Decker, Cyrus Kouandjio

LG. Graham Glasgow, Laken Tomlinson

C. Travis Swanson, Leo Kolomatangi

RG. TJ Lang, Joe Dahl

RT. Ricky Wagner, Greg Robinson

Defense

DE. Kerry Hyder, Cornelius Washington

DT. A’Shawn Robinson, Akeem Spence

DT. Haloti Ngata, Khyri Thornton

DE. Ziggy Ansah, Armonty Bryant

SLB. Antwione Williams, Paul Worrilow

MLB. Jarrad Davis, Nick Bellore

WLB. Tahir Whitehead, Thurston Armbrister

CB. Darius Slay, Quandre Diggs

SS. Tavon Wilson, Miles Killebrew

FS. Glover Quin, Don Carey

CB. Nevin Lawson,  Teez Tabor

NB. DJ Hayden

Specialists

K. Matt Prater

P. Sam Martin

 Breakdown

Offense:

The Lions were not a high powered offense last season but they were an opportunistic bunch that were best when they needed to be. Quarterback Matt Stafford led the charge having what I felt was the best season of his career. He completed 65% of his passes and had a 93.3 passer rating. But what was most impressive was the leadership he seemed to show on the field. He looked more comfortable without Calvin Johnson and for the first time in his career the Lions felt like his team. One of the things hindering the Lions offense was a lack of a running game. Their top running back Ameer Abdullah only played in two games and their next best guy Theo Riddick only played in 10. The Lions are not without talent at the running back position by any means they just need better health. Abdullah showed some tremendous flashes in a short sample size rushing for 101 yards on 18 carries and as he enters his third season I think he may be primed for a breakout season. Golden Tate was the team’s leading receiver a year ago and will figures to be the top guy again. He caught over 90 balls and had over 1,000 yards receiving and has the tools to be a top guy. Marvin Jones is the number two guy and he is a solid secondary option. Anquan Boldin is out and now there is void at the slot receiver position. Third round pick Kenny Golladay has reportedly emerged as the favorite to win the job in camp but TJ Jones and Jared Abbrederis  are also in the mix for the job. Eric Ebron had the most productive season of his career in his third season and now as he enters a contract season I would expect him to play even better. The former first round pick has all the natural ability in the world and though he made strides last season I still believe he is capable of a lot more than he has shown up to this point in his career. The offensive line will look a lot different especially early due to their left tackle Taylor Decker expected to miss 4-6 months. The team also lost their starting right guard and right tackle from last year in free agency. However they replaced those guys with two new free agents of their own bringing in Ricky Wagner from the Ravens and TJ Lang from the rival Packers. As far as I am concerned the Lions upgraded the right side of the line with these moves. Wagner was very good for the Ravens last year as he was one of the best pass blocking right tackles in the NFL. TJ Lang is one of the top 10 guards in the NFL and has been for years. Fourth year man Travis Swanson will return at center. After two shaky seasons to start his career Swanson finally figured it out last year and was a really solid player for the Lions. He will look to be even better with hopes of cashing in next offseason after his rookie deal expires. The weakest spot on the O-line is the left guard spot. 2015 first round pick Laken Tomlinson just has not worked out. It got so bad the Lions opted to move backup center Graham Glasgow, last year’s third round pick, to the position where he out played him. Though Glasgow was an upgrade over Tomlinson he certainly did not prove he is the answer yet either. The two will be battling throughout camp and the preseason for the job but Glasgow is the current favorite to win it. With Decker out for most of the first half of the season the Lions are in a pickle at left tackle. Cyrus Kouandijo, Greg Robinson, and Storm Norton are the three guys who figure to be competing for the vacant spot and of the three Kouandijo is probably the most talented. With better health at running back and an improved offensive line the Lions should be better on offense down the road but left tackle is a very important position and all of the games Decker misses could be a potential problem if they do not have a competent player at that position.

Defense:

The Lions were one of the worst teams in the league last season in terms of pass rush. A large part of that was due to their best defensive end Ezekiel Ansah playing hurt throughout the season. His play fell off significantly from the elite year he put up in 2015 as he only managed two sacks in 13 games. If he is healthy in 2017 I would expect a major bounce back season from him. Undrafted free agent and former practice squad player Kerry Hyder came out of nowwhere to pick up some of the slack leading the team with eight sacks. He was the only player on the team with more than five sacks. He has earned the right to start in 2017. On the interior A’Shawn Robinson and Haloti Ngata will start. Ngata is approaching the end of his career and offers nearly nothing as a pass rusher at this point but he still is decent vs the run and is a good presence in the locker room. Robinson had an ok rookie year but the Lions need him to progress and take it up another level in year two as the Lions have not had a true impact player on the defensive interior since Suh departed. The Lions might have had the worst linebacking corps in the NFL last year. Not a single player they tried made much of an impact which is what led them to draft Jarrad Davis with their first round pick in the 2017 draft. Davis should instantly start and be the best of the group. Tahir Whitehead will return as the weakside backer and will need to play a lot better in 2017. Their fifth round pick in last year’s draft Antwione Williams has currently been getting the first team reps at the strong side linebacker position in camp. He did not play a whole lot in his rookie year but will be given the opportunity this season. The strength of the Lions defense should be the secondary. Darius Slay is one of the better cornerbacks in the league and Nevin Lawson had the best year of his career in his third season. At the nickel spot the Lions have three guys vying for the spot. Quandre Diggs is the incumbent but he had a up and down year last season and so did their free agent pick up DJ Hayden for the Raiders last year. Also in the mix is second round pick Teez Tabor who probably has more natural ability than both. The Lions got good safety play a year ago and both guys are back in Tavon Wilson at strong safety and Glover Quin at free safety. They complemented each other well as Wilson was one of the best safeties in the league playing the run and Quin as always was good in coverage. Overall with a good secondary the Lions should at the very least be able to hold up in the passing game but the pass rush has to be better and their linebacker play needs to be a lot better. Overall the Lions are probably at best an above average defense.

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