The Lions had major regression in their 2012 run, a season that saw a re-energized fan base bail on their team before Thanksgiving. After battling back to 4-4 the Lions lost the last 8 games of the season as the blame and backlash fell upon the team during their free fall and at the end of the season.
Heading into next season there’s a number of things the Lions will need to do to try and capitalize off the success of 2011.
The following should though be at the top of the list of areas that need to be improved going into 2013.
1. Matthew Stafford
He was basically a 2nd year QB last season spending most of his first two years hurt. A lot of QB’s struggle in their sophomore campaign as the rest of the league adjusts which is why Stafford’s touchdown production was cut in half. However he’s a young QB with a rocket arm that isn’t scared to make throws. Not to mention he’s a true pocket passer that’s good at looking down field and overall making the offense better.
Now I’m not in the camp of questioning Stafford’s arm angle or throwing off his back foot. Frankly he has the arm to do it. Farve made a career improvising and just as recent as the Cotton Bowl, I see Johnny Manziel launching bombs off his back foot.
So what’s the difference? Winning.
Last year no one said anything about Stafford’s arm angle. But it’s not like Stafford can’t improve. He needs to clean up mistakes with interceptions, take more of leadership role, fix the slow starts where he seems too amped, settle in early and control the tempo of the game.
This is an area Detroit has struggled with for really my entire lifetime. I’m 32, grew up a Lions fan and can’t remember a draft where I or the masses were blown away.
Looking back, the best classes I can see were 88’ or 89’. GM’s have changed, coaches have changed but scouting has not. Now the Lions are at a breaking point with this roster and coaching staff. They need an impact draft and the Lions are due. This is a DE/LB heavy draft and the philosophy of best player available is a bad one. The Lions have needs at almost every position but need to be careful how they prioritize given the the ways of the current NFL. At wide receiver and running back, complimentary pieces are needed which can be found late in the draft or in free agency. At the 5th pick Detroit could go LB or DE and then pick a safety in the late second round. But with that said the Lions need their 2nd round pick to be an impact player as well as a player in the third round that can start.
3. Head Coach
What is the identity of this football team? There isn’t anything this squad does great and at the end of the day if head coach Jim Schwartz hangs his hat and thinks there’s a part of this team that can’t improve… he isn’t the man for the job. First and foremost the discipline on the team needs to be greatly improved. Players need to be held accountable and the team needs to be more readily prepared. Things like Chicago forcing 8 turnovers in 2 games this year is alarming. Ball security; where is it? Chicago is a divisional opponent and everyone knows they live and die off turnovers. These are things Jim Schwartz has to answer for.
Once thought of as the smartest guy in the room, maybe Schwartz’s over thinking costs the team a few finer points? A defensive coordinator in Tennessee and his obsession on offense needs to be shifted to the lack of defense while offensive coordinator Scott Linehan needs to figure out the red zone.
Schwartz needs to take the next step.
4. Ndamukong Suh
This is his defense and he needs to take control of it. I don’t expect Ray Lewis leadership but it’s time Suh grows up. He has the kind of talent and numbers to make players answer to him. Guys like Raiola, Tulloch, and Houston have no business answering for this team. It should be Suh and Stafford. It’s time our 2 franchise pieces take charge and Suh should demand the best out of everyone around him.
5. Say goodbye to overpriced veteran players
There isn’t a veteran player on this team pulling their weight. They are nice to have for leadership and showing a younger player the rigors of the NFL life but the problem is many of the young players on the team failed to learn from these guys. Which in turn? Makes most of them expendable in more ways than one.
- Wide receiver Nate Burleson, who is a favorite of mine has a bloated salary and just isn’t putting up the numbers he use to.
- Kyle Vanden Bosch is 34 and had 3.5 sacks while going largely unnoticed.
- Dominic Raiola is being paid 5 million a year which is top center money. Too many times this season we see the middle of the opponents d-line getting pressure or stopping our run. Replays show that Raiola isn’t blocking anyone and often times gets turned around.
- Stephen Petermen is a false start waiting to happen and once again makes too much money for just an average lineman.
Then the Lions have free agents that could stay or leave and go relatively unnoticed. Linebackers De’Andre Levy and Justin Durant will become free agents this offseason while defensive tackle Corey Williams may also be affordable to let go due to the emergence of Nick Fairley. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus could also become expendable via free agency give the first round selection of Riley Reiff last season and if Jeff Backus returns.