Lions

2012 Lions season review: The great disappointment

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The Detroit Lions were possibly the greatest disappointment in the NFL in 2012 after going 4-12 to follow a 10-6 year that also saw a playoff berth.

The national and local media alike hopped on the Lions’ star trio of Stafford, Johnson and Suh in 2011 a base that any team should be able to build around and find success.

In fact I would argue this season is worse than the 2008 in which the Lions went 0-16.

Back then we knew the Lions weren’t very good as it was a team capped off by nearly a decade of Matt Millen drafting players and making decisions. The Lions had little expectation and it certainly showed on the field.

Enter 2009 and the drafting of Matthew Stafford. The first round selection out of Georgia showed promise from snap one despite his numerous injuries early on. 2010 saw the selection of Ndamukong Suh and his eye popping 2010 campaign.

And from these consecutive high draft picks coupled with Calvin Johnson, Lions nation was rewarded with a 10-6 season in 2011 and a playoff berth. Most of all though fans perhaps got their first indications that the team was finally on it’s way to continued success in the NFL.

Then we get the the 2012 nightmare.

We saw the collective team regress into terms that aren’t measurable. The Lions saw their offense go from almost 30 points a game to 23, a star QB have his touch down passes cut in half, wide receivers drop balls that were reminiscent to the Harrington era, Coaching blunders that reminded Lions fans of a quote that will live in infamy “We’ll take the wind” and a defense that made plays a year ago to a defense that provided zero ability to create a turnover.

2012 was the return of the same ol’ Lions…

Offense

Quarterback: The Lions had Matthew Stafford break an NFL record for pass attempts that was set in 1994 and was just shy of throwing for 5,000 yards for consecutive seasons. Hearing that, you’d think the Lions would at least of reached the .500 mark.

This however wasn’t the case.

Collectively the position saw it’s  touchdown passes cut from 41 to 20 and in turn had way too many turnovers. Stafford’s mechanics seemed totally out of whack as he was consistently throwing off his back foot and had that side arm delivery something we haven’t seen in season’s past. This led to many questions as to whether or not Stafford was hurt and if the team should go with Shaun Hill who is heralded as one of the best back-up quarterbacks in the league.

Running Back: Leshoure had a decent season for a team that likes to throw the football. In 14 games this year and in his first regular season after an Achilles injury, Leshoure saw 798 rushing yards and 9 rushing touchdowns. We’ll definitely need to see more improvement on the 4 yards per carry he had as well as ball security and the overall lack of an explosiveness out of the backfield (his longest run of the year was just 15 yards).

The Lions did however get a diamond in the rough as Joique Bell out of Wayne State made his way up through the practice squad to finding a firm spot on the weekly roster, finishing the year with 28 1st downs while averaging 5.0 yards a carry. Bell also had 52 catches on the year. With his performance this year Bell should of earned a spot on the team next year yet the Lions still need a running back with game changing speed something that isn’t on the roster right now given the huge uncertainty surrounding the career of Jahvid Best.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: By the end of the season the the wide receiver position was the only area of productivity on the team and ironically enough it came from one guy… Calvin Johnson. Megatron lead the League in yards, catches, catches over 20 yards but only accumulated 5  touchdowns as opposing teams made possibly the most dangerous weapon in the game a possession receiver. Veteran Nate Burleson was hurt halfway through the year diminishing the Lions’ ability to keeps it’s composure while Titus Young possibly punched his ticket out of the NFL by sabotaging his own team. Recent reports however indicate that the Lions front office brass will give Young another chance but winning over his teammates will be a difficult task.

Unfortunately though for the Lions it looks as though they may need Young.

Meanwhile, tight end Brandon Pettigrew continues to not live up to his draft status as he continually dropped crucial passes and fumbled possessions. Tony Scheffler had his moments over the season but when Pettigrew got hurt, Scheffler showed why he is the back up as he wasn’t very impressive.

Ryan Broyles showed flashes as a rookie and looked to justify Martin Mayhew drafting him in the 2nd round but he like Nate Burlesson was lost for the season after suffering his second ACL injury to the opposite knee he hurt in college.

Broyles though is sure handed and should recover to be the teams slot guy next year.

Offensive Line: This is a veteran group that has been together for a while but by season’s end they really showed their age. Despite not being the most talented group they did a fairly good job at protecting the quarterback up until late this season when Stafford all of a sudden was under tremendous fire. They’ve also never been good in regards to controlling a defensive line to set up the run as the Lions haven’t seen a 1000 yard back in over a decade.

Most of this group is 30 or over next season. Peterman, Raiola make too much money for a team against the cap and incumbent left tackle Jeff Backus is talking retirement while former first round pick Gosder Cherilus is a free agent.

Only left guard Rob Sims and tackle Riley Reiff  should be locks for starting next year.

Defense

Defensive line: Suh had a year to answer the critic’s. He cleaned up on QB pressures and had 8 sacks. Problem was he didn’t have a healthy guy next to him for a long period of time. Veteran Corey Williams was hurt most of the year while Nick Fairley was lost late in the year as well. And speaking of Fairley despite the injury 2012 was a coming out party so-to-speak as the next two seasons at defensive tackle should be fun to watch.

It is possible for the Lions defensive tackles to accumulate 20 sacks next season.

But Suh’s effect on the game was not taken advantage of from the linebacking core or the defensive ends. Cliff Avril not being able to get meaningful sacks or a bigger number then 9.5 is disappointing and being a free agent might of cost him a large sum of money after not signing a pretty lucrative offer sheet from the Lions last season. Vanden Bosch had a year he will like to forget losing yet another step to his game. He should be a cap causality but I’d love to see him return as a defensive assistant coach.

The Lions were supposed to have depth on the D-Line. Willie Young and Lo-Jax had years that made you wonder if they were still on the Lions. Neither being able to unseat KVB shows where they were at. The Lions also have free agents everywhere on the line. Decisions will be tough but I hope to see Sammie Hill brought back being a quality backup and boarder line starter at defensive tackle. And with Hill back it will allow Corey Williams to leave in free agency

Linebackers: This group is as average as they are just names filling stats. They don’t have a  playmaker or make plays as a whole. Tulloch has a nose for the ball but in no way is he top linebacker. He is somewhere between 15-20 in the league while De’Andre Levy and himself suffer from overplaying the football and getting burned by cut backs. Levy has been in Detroit forever and has failed to take steps forward as Justin Durant will probably not be brought back because he will be paid more than he’s worth.

Ashlee Palmer was just re-signed so this means Detroit is either keeping depth or preparing to let a starter go.

Secondary: In the offseason, the Lions did little to improve this group. Delmas at safety was once again held back by injury as Chris Houston who in most cases is a No. 2 corner on a good team was the Lions’ only bright spot. And because of this Houston is a must to resign for the Lions. The rest of the secondary was a revolving door, from names like Coleman, Spiviey, Bartell, Carey, Florence all in and out of the lineup.

Lions did draft a bunch of corners late in the 2012 draft selecting Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood, and Jonte Green. Green and Bentley did show promise but were eventually lost for the season with injury while Greenwood was never set foot on the field due to an injury in training camp.

Special Teams

Hanson had a very productive year kicking the football but is talking retirement. In his early 40’s and the oldest player currently in the NFL Hanson has lost the ability to bury a kickoff into the end zone yet his field goal ability is still a plus.

After Hanson this special teams unit needs a bomb dropped on it. Even with signing special team ace Kassim Osgood this team has seen teams return the ball at will which can be attributed to the tackling and scheme being horrible.

Punter Nick Harris was in Schwartz’s dog house but the team lacked a better option.

Bottom line this was one of the worst special teams in football history, not just the for the season.

Coaching

Schwartz was able to keep his job this year for one more go around and a chance to redeem himself after a disastrous season both on the field and on the sidelines. Frankly being unprepared and out coached in most games it’s surprising to me to see him back. The team has taken on his undisciplined style and it’s not a brand of football fans care for.

The teams short comings haven’t fallen away from the coordinators either.

Linehan’s offense seems to go unpunished as he has had more toys via the draft given to him the last 4 years than any other coordinator. This ultimately led to Linehan being unable to get his offense to consistently score in the red zone. As for Gunther Cunningham, it’s hard for me to bash him. Although I think the wide nine scheme has run its course, he was never given the personnel to achieve its goal.

 

About Jason Bray

Detroit Sports Columist. Joined The Majors staff in 2012 covering the Detroit Lions.

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