Right from the get go, let’s talk numbers. Key numbers from last year are as follows:
- 4-12 record
- 23 times a WR was tackled inside the 5 yd line (league high)
- 6 recovered fumbles (league low).
So I mention optimism in the title right? Well this is why. You see these numbers and this is what Coach Schwartz sees, as well as the rest of the coaching staff. These numbers are anomalies and have nowhere to go but up. This in itself should have Coach Schwartz excited and looking forward to this year. This and well… in case you haven’t noticed, the Lions have turned over quite a bit of their roster and added depth, speed and overall raw talent.
Schwartz is a defensive guy. He has been given two new members in the secondary (Quin and Slay) while the team’s fingers are crossed that Delmas might actually have a healthy year. In the trenches, outside of Suh and Fairley at DT the Lions have turned over their whole defensive line (Jones, Ansah, Idonije, Mosley,) which is even more important given the team has since been living on a reputation from their 2010 season, something they need to move on from. The Lions also added Reggie Bush, a speed element missing since Jahvid Best’s career was ended mid 2011.
So Lions fans are you getting giddy yet with possibilities? Quite frankly it’s the best trait of being a Lions fan.
Detroit went out and addressed every issue that plagued them a year ago. The Lions were torched on special teams over and over ranking near the bottom of the league in starting field positioning and opponent’s average starting field position. So what happens this offseason after that? How about a PK competition with David Akers and YouTube sensation Harvard Rugland a.k.a. “Kickalicious”. Now more than likely Akers wins the job as his still strong leg can pin the opposition with touchbacks. The veteran who struggled with the 49ers last season still has an 81% conversion rate on FG’s and you’d be hard pressed to find another kicker that has more points in the last 5 years. In addition Akers comes to a team that primarily plays in a dome and should be poised for a solid year, one season removed from a Pro Bowl. The team also drafted Theo Riddick and signed Montell Owens to compete for the kick returner spot so the Lions wouldn’t have players out of position.
But one of the biggest reasons though you need to be excited about the upcoming season is due to the fact that guys who were tabbed as starters last season will be regulated to 2nd or 3rd on the depth chart. Much of this turnover can be seen on the offfensive line as it’s become more athletic and younger. Jeff Backus (retired), Gosder Cherulis (Colts) and Stephen Peterman (Jets) have been replaced with the likes of Riley Reiff at left tackle, Larry Warford to plug right guard while Corey Hillard and Jason Fox are in a battle for the right tackle spot.
So do you see? That’s the d-line, new key special teams members, 3/5th of the o-line and healthy playmakers for Stafford to target.
But it’s not all sunshine in Allen Park, the Lions still have their fair share of questions. How long will it take for the offensive line take to gel? Is Ziggy Ansah ready day one or next year? But the biggest question and one area that wasn’t addressed is linebacker. Justin Durant was allowed to leave and DeAndre Levy was re-signed to go along with Stephen Tulloch. Now Tullouch is undersized a bit but a tackling machine. Last year though he was over playing the ball for a defense struggling for a playmaker. Meanwhile the Lions defensive line was allowed to run down hill only to watch teams move the pocket up and make huge plays, leaving Tulloch defenseless. I’m not calling Tulloch a Pro Bowler, he is between 10-15 in terms of ranking out middle linebackers. Bottom line is he needs help and if he gets it he will look better. Levy on the other hand has spent most of his career playing behind Vanden Bosch (who is currently looking for employment) and quite frankly he (Levy) hasn’t done anything during his time in Detroit to make me feel keeping him over Durant was the right decision.
Furthermore the left side or weak side linebacker is amongst one of the biggest battles in camp. Ashlee Palmer or Travis Lewis? Palmer is mainly a special teamer and back up while Lewis struggled to find playing time. This linebacking core will need big plays from the Lions’ defensive strength at DT as well as from the safeties over the top.
Word around camp is Matt Stafford staying in Detroit and working out all year has paid off with the QB looking to be in good shape.
Keep it tuned here though as we continue to update you on the happenings at 2013 Lions training camp!