If any one playing group had a larger impact than the Lions defensive line did for them, on any other NFL team during the 2010 NFL season, I would be surprised. The Lions defensive line made the Lions defense (16th in passing defense, 24th rushing defense, 21st in total defense) both imposing and viable, while presenting match-up problems that neutralized Lions opponents ability to take advantage of their undermanned back seven.
The 2010 Lions were coming off of a run of seasons where they were ranked historically among the all-time worst NFL defenses. There was little reason to expect that the Lions would have made the gains that they were able to make during this season.
The Lions made several bold strokes this off-season, in an attempt to improve their lot. Jim Schwartz actively recruited his former Titans player, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch and was able to convince him to sign with the Lions at the opening of free agency.
The Lions also had the best NFL prospect of the 2010 draft fortuitously fall into their laps, DT Ndamukong Suh. Boy howdy, did Suh deliver, too. Suh, a “Shuh-In” for NFL Defensive Rookie of the year, was a true difference maker and force to be reckoned with (likely, for years to come, too).
Vanden Bosch and Suh delivered both a presence and attitude, while devastating opposing offensive lines and QB’s. Vanden Bosch, who unfortunately missed the final five games, brought an unmatched effort and toughness that seemingly brought the entire defense along with him.
If the additions of Vanden Bosch and Suh were all that the Lions front office accrued during the off-season, it would have been notable. Where Martin Mayhew truly pulled off a remarkable coup, in moves that made a huge difference for the Lions defense, was in his low cost acquisitions of DT Corey Williams (and a 2010 7th round pick for a Lions 2010 5th round pick) and DE Lawrence Jackson (6th rounder in 2011).
Those improvements, along with the progress made by players like DT Sammie Lee Hill and DE Cliff “Kompared to Kalimba No More!” Avril, along with valuable depth provided by versatile DE Turk McBride and DT Andre Fluellen, made the Lions defensive front comparable with the league’s best.
One change that went highly unrecognized, was the retirement of Bob Karmelowicz (who has since deceased) and promotion of a young, fiery defensive line coach named Kris Kocurek. Kocurek had a great deal of success, with admittedly, a lot of resources to work with.
A lasting image for me of the 2010 season will always be of Kocurek, wearing a headset and sporting a chaw in his cheek, slapping his defensive linemen’s backs as they leave the field, after another big defensive stop.
The Lions defensive coaching staff seemingly willed the Lions defense to become competitive. Lions defense Gunther Cunningham, always a fiery and aggressive presence, truly utilized his defensive front four to his advantage.
Last season, Cunningham would continually dial up blitzes, out of desperation. This season, the Lions front four generated enough pass rushing pressure that often the Lions could rush four and drop seven into coverage. That being said, whenever the attacking tendencies of Cunningham were needed, he was able to more thoughtfully sprinkle in blitzes to disrupt opponents, rather than as a means of preventing opposing QB’s from picking apart the Lions defense.
The Lions were 6th in the NFL with 44 sacks. Of which, 37 were produced by the Lions front four (Lawrence “Lo-Jack” Jackson 6.0, Ndamukong Suh 10.0, Kyle Vanden Bosch 4.0, Cliff Avril 8.5, Sammie Lee Hill 2.5, Andre Fluellen 1.0, Turk McBride 5.0)!
Something we are not fully capable of measureing is how often the Lions defensive line impacted (and altered) opponents offensive game plans by forcing them into third and long distances. We will never know how often opponents had fewer pass catching options due to max-protect blocking schemes (keeping tight ends and backs out of pass routes to block) or how many checked down, dump off passes were made as a result of oncoming pressure. Lastly, we will not know how many incomplete passes came as a result of poorly thrown balls that were awkwardly rushed in response to the pressure of the Lions front four.
If I were to grade the Lions defensive line collectively, I’d give them an “A-“. They could have earned an “A” grade, had they not accumulated so many encroachment and costly personal foul penalties, a season long bug-a-boo.
Kyle Vanden Bosch: B+ (A+ for effort)
Ndamukong Suh: A- (he was still a rookie, after all)
Corey Williams: A- (penalties, nearly unblockable at times)
Cliff Avril: A (for proving me wrong (the death of his Kalimba Part Deux nickname) and becoming a force…now deliver for seasons to come!)
Turk McBride: A (excellent job as a fill-in and player who made big steps forward this season)
Andre Fluellen: B (serviceable, but Corey Williams playing so well made him the least acknowledged member of the Lions defensive line, in the playing group)
Sammie Lee Hill: B+ (easily could have been starter, if not for the presence of Suh)
Willie Young: INC (a project, who may or may not have a future with the organization. “Hawaii Five-Oh”, who?)
Lawrence “Lo-Jack” Jackson: A- (as a former first rounder, had high expectations. Still excellent production from a backup)
To say that the Lions performance in their last four games changed my perspective significantly, in regard to my assessment of their overall performance, would be an understatement.
At 2-10, with several painful close losses in tow, I was becoming concerned that helming the Lions may be a larger task than Lions head coach Jim Schwartz would be capable of. I had begun to believe that he would not be able to reverse their fortunes, nor would he be able to help them to be able to win the close games that they were routinely losing as the season wore on.
Even with the questionable losses and penalties stacking up, making it easily one of the more interesting (and painful) Lions seasons ever in many regards, this Lions team appeared to be comprised of a different substance than the one’s who failed so miserably during season’s past.
I legitimately savored the Lions four-game winning streak as the season wore down. Those four wins, two of them against legit playoff contenders, and the way in which the Lions had to fight to come out on top in each perilous victory, are a good sign for the program of Jim Schwartz and his coaching staff.
Those hard-fought victories could be the first tenuous baby steps being made by the generally agreed upon, worst franchise in all of professional sports. These Lions are not going to be taken for granted by their opponents, for the foreseeable future, that’s for certain.
That being said, four wins can present a blinding allure. If the Lions don’t have a strong off-season, improving as players within the organization and making the correct decisions in their off-season roster re-tooling (trades, draft, free agency), then any measureable gains which the organization has seemingly made, could quickly erode and devolve into the moribund, losing comfort zone which has permeated the Lions organizational culture for far too long.
The “Big Buck” Stares at the Uneasy
Precipice Which the Lions Find Themselves
Currently Hanging Over
In many ways, Jim Schwartz finds himself in an unenviable position. He could easily become one of the best and most important head coaches in Lions history, if he can build upon the Lions four-game winning stretch. This is precisely where Lions head coaches (Rod Marinelli and Wayne Fontes) have so often failed during seasons past.
One thing that is uncontestable, the Lions are an improved team who are at a crucial developmental stage, holding the 13th pick in the April draft. The Lions aren’t necessarily in a familiar position, either.
They currently have some talent and depth, so unlike years past, they won’t just close their eyes and just take the best player available to them. They have some clear postions of need, which they will need to focus upon during the off-season. That fact alone, will put additional pressure upon the Lions front office. They know what they need, and can ill afford to miss in their evaluations.
As a Lions fan, I believe now is the time to appreciate the steps that have been made, look favorably upon a season that was salvaged from the crossroads of abject failure. It was not a perfect result, but the signs of encouragement are not to be ignored. If the NFL’s labor situation doesn’t defuse the Lions momentum, a quality off-season maybe all that separates them from becoming playoff contenders.
The Lions Congregation is a roundtable of Lions bloggers who comment upon a topic or topics, nearly every week. Here is my response to the question of whether or not Ndamukong Suh is likely to win NFC Defensive Player of the Year, on top of his near shoo-in selection for NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year:
Q: Should Ndamukong Suh also be getting strong consideration for Defensive Player of the Year, not just Defensive Rookie of the year? Will he win one or both? Thoughts?
Should Ndamukong Suh receive consideration for NFC Defensive Player of the Year? Hell, Yes!
Let the results speak for themselves:
Suh has:9 sacks (1st for DT’s)
60 combined tackles (3rd most for interior linemen, 1st DT)
1 interception returned for 20 yards
1 fumble recovery returned for a TD
Individual defensive statistics can be misleading, but let’s look at some of the changes in Lions team defensive statistics from 09′ to ’10:
The Lions Total Team Defense was ranked 32nd in ’09, and is currently 22nd in ’10. They are allowing 39.7 fewer yards per game (392.1 to 352.4) and .5 yards fewer per play (6.1 to 5.6).
The most noticeable improvements have been made in team pass defense:
Opp. Pass Comp Pct: 68.1 to 63.8
Opp. Passing Yards: 4, 249 to 3, 361 (a decrease of 888 yards)
Avg: 8.1 to 7.5 (a decrease of .6 yards per pass)
Opp. Yd/G: 265.6 to 224.1 (a decrease of 41.5 yds/g)
TD/INT: 35/9 to 23/13 (12 fewer TD’s, 4 more INT’s)
Here is where Suh, and I believe the performance of the entire Lions defensive line has made it’s biggest difference.
Completed Passes of 20 yards or more: 54 to 41
Completed Passes of 40 yards or more: 41 to 9
Sacks: 26 to 41 (+15!)
Opp. Qb Rating: 107.0 to 91.1
Opponents are being pressured to deliver shorter, quicker passes. Opposing Qb’s are not being allowed to find a rhythm, nor are they able to exploit the weaknesses still lurking in the Lions secondary.
The Lions defense is still far from dominant, but even after injuries and roster deficiencies are accounted for, this team could not have possibly improved this much defensively solely because of another year of tutelage under Jim Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham.
The Lions defensive line has been the single biggest factor which has made this team competitive and appearing on the verge of better things to come. An argument can be made for Corey Williams being the most dominant DT on the Lions roster, but no Lions defensive lineman has exhibited the playmaking and difference-making ability of Ndamukong Suh.
Suh’s pernicious attitude on the field, which has consistently drawn double teams from opponents, has been infectiously influential upon the entire defense. The Lions defense is playing with a chip upon it’s shoulder and not allowing opposing QB’s to become comfortable.
In all likelihood, Suh will not receive legitimate consideration for the NFC Defensive Player of the Year. He has yet to establish the kind of pedigree or track record necessary to receive that kind of notice. That being said, watching one of the league’s all-time worst pass defenses become viable and respectable, albeit still residing in the middle of the pack, largely has to be attributed to the Lions biggest off-season addition, Ndamukong Suh.
Suh is a shoo-in for NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, and is a top five finalist for NFC Defensive Player of the Year. If nothing else, no one off-season addition can be considered to be remotely as propitious as the Lions draft selection of Suh, who has changed the face of the entire franchise.
Read More Here.
The Lions and Buccaneers are an incredibly interesting matchup. Each team is in a rebuilding mode, and has young new head coaches (Raheem Morris) and a recently drafted franchise QB (Josh Freeman) and defensive lineman (Gerald McCoy) to show for it.
If there is a franchise who rivals the Lions current extended run of losing, it is the “creamsicle” Bucs, who were infamously bad in the late 70′s and early 80′s.
The Creamsicle Bucs Uniforms, 2.0
That being said, the Buccaneers have been a competitive, perennial playoff team under Tony Dungy and won a Super Bowl with Jon “Chucky” Gruden as their head coach. They are also an improbable 8-5 team, who are battling for their playoff lives.
On the other hand, the Lions have won one playoff game since 1957 and are experiencing a prolonged drought from post-season play. The Lions are no closer to being a playoff team now, than when they named Matt Millen as team president and Marty Mornihnweg as head coach.
The Buccaneers are watching their franchise QB Josh Freeman blossom, while the Lions Matthew Stafford has been injured during nearly all of the 2010 season. The Lions are celebrating the emergence of DT Ndamukong Suh, meanwhile Bucs DT Gerald McCoy’s play has been overshadowed by Suh’s (and McCoy has subsequently been placed upon injured reserve).
The Bucs will utilize the strong-armed, tough Freeman to their advantage against the Lions. Even if the Buccaneers offensive line has been decimated by injuries to G Davin Joseph and C Jeff Faine, they likely plan to utilize Freeman’s big time arm and burgeoning receivers Arrelious Been and Mike Williams (not that one) to go after a Lions injury-depleted secondary.
In order to do so, the Bucs will need to have rookie RB LeGarrette Blount pound the Lions in the ground game and have some success and efficiency with short quick passes, to slow the Lions devastating pass rush.
The Lions will be featuring new faces like CB’s Nathan Vasher, Eric King and Prince Miller in their secondary and also expect LB Bobby Carpenter to see his first heavy dose of playing time (outside of special teams). It is quite possible that the Lions defense will experience some communication breakdowns and be dogged by mistakes.
Still, the Lions defense has played much better during recent weeks and are ranked closer to the middle of the pack in the league (19th), than their usual bottom dwelling would seem to indicate.
The Buccaneers have been devastated by injury defensively, too. Aside from the aforementioned loss of Gerald McCoy, the Bucs have also lost their best DB Aqib Talib, S Cody Grimm and LB Quincy Black for the season.
Drew Stanton Will Do the “Dougie”, If He is Named
Sunday’s Starting QB For the Lions
The Lions are keeping their QB situation a bit of a mystery as to whether Drew Stanton or Shaun Hill will start. Either way, the Lions likely plan utilizing a similar run-heavy offensive strategy as the one they used to defeat the Green Bay Packers last week, to take some of the burden off of the Qb’s shoulders, regardless of who starts.
Teams have run pretty well against the Bucs (133.11 yards/g), so the Lions will likely use the assortment of Jahvid Best, Maurice Morris and Stefan Logan to their advantage, like they did last week.
The Lions should be prevented with a favorable matchup for each of their top receivers, WR Calvin Johnson and TE Brandon Pettigrew, against an undermanned Bucs defense. As long as the Lions can run moderately well, Johnson should be able to find some measure of success against CB Ronde Barber, whose better days are behind him.
On paper, this appears to be another close game for the Lions, where their ability to seize opportunities and avoid costly mistakes will determine the game’s final outcome. The fact that the Lions are amid a 26-game road losing streak does not inspire a lot of confidence, but if Jim Schwartz wants to make a mark, ending that streak in Tampa today would be huge.
Lions 24 Bucs 20
Coming off of five straight losses, and 19 straight losses to divisional foes, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the Lions, as led by third string QB Drew Stanton, stand even a remote chance of defeating the Packers.
The Packers are on a roll and the Lions remaining prospects for the 2010 season are flagging at best. Aaron Rodgers has come into his own and injuries are starting to decimate the Lions defense.
That being said, the Lions played the Packers about as well as anyone could have reasonably expected at Lambeau Field, earlier in the season. The Lions have most played teams close this season, but have found incredibly innovative ways in which to snatch defeat from the gaping maw of victory. It has been a little painful.
At any rate, Drew Stanton played favorably against the Bears, and the Lions did an excellent job of keeping the game managably within the realm of his third string capabilities. The Lions will need to do the same against the Packers, since they will likely heap a pile of exotic blitz packages onto Stanton’s shoulders.
The Lions will also need to find the means to get Calvin Johnson more involved in their offense, especially with a limited Charles Woodson attempting to cover him. Perennially, Johnson has been underutilized by the Lions and with the injury to Jahvid Best he has been their one true offensive playmakers.
All things considered, I just can’t see a scenario where the Lions defense will be able to limit the Packers offense. Game Over.
Packers 31 Lions 20
Yesterday’s news was quite harsh for Lions fans. The team’s spiritual backbone, and a template for all that is right and good for the current Lions, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, and it’s most gifted ballhawk, CB Alphonso Smith, were both placed upon injured reserve.
That, along with the news that Matthew Stafford has resumed light throwing, but has a long ways to go before becoming remotely game ready, all amounts to dashing whatever remaining meager hope Lions fans were clinging to about the Lions 2010 season. It only gets worse from here.
Vanden Bosch was a truly spectacular off-season addition. The combination of the tirelessly, relentless “KVB”, pocket-exploding Corey Williams, the precociously aggressive Ndamukong Suh, and the luminescently emergent Cliff Avril, all have made the 2-10 Lions a much better team to watch, in lieu of their awful record.
The Lions defense still has a long ways to go. Vanden Bosch has an extremely checkered injury history and is not getting any younger. The presence of DE’s Lawrence Jackson and Turk McBride, each capable players who have performed well in spot duty, may render Vanden Bosch and his large contract expendable in 2011.
2011 will be Vanden Bosch’s 10th season in the league. He has now participated in two injury-shortened seasons, in the last four of his career.
Earlier in the season, a tearful Gunther Cunningham was awestruck by Vanden Bosch’s effort, I wonder how many tears were shed as a result of yesterday’s bad news? The Lions will go on, injuries occur all of the time. That being said, the hopeful optimism of a positive outcome to the 2010 season is rapidly eroding for the 2-10 Lions.
Aside from his systematic dismantling by the Patriots on Thanksgiving, Alphonso Smith brought some much-needed playmaking and ballhawking ability to a poor Lions defense. After the Pats game, Smith fell out of favor a bit with the Lions fan base, but how will they feel while Nathan Vasher and Brandon McDonald are called to play against a dynamic Packers passing attack this Sunday?
Ultimately, the Lions 2010 season’s (and what limited potential for success it may have had) outcome was riding on the apparently weakened shoulders of projected franchise QB, Matthew Stafford.
The injury Stafford sustained during Week One, and the subsequent Week Nine injury sustained against the Jets, likely predetermined the Lions fate in 2010.
As much as there were signs of improvement and some emerging glimmers of hope, the team is still mired in a 26-game road losing streak, a 19-game losing streak against divisional foes, and are 5-47 in their last 52 games.
Jim Schwartz’s coaching tenure is off to an inauspicious 4-24 start. The Lions are the worst team in professional sports history. If valuable players continue to go down to injury, the Lions will lose any traction that they may have gained as a franchise this season, moving forward.
The Lions have had an incredibly interesting season, which after several controversial calls have been made by NFL officials, has given Lions fans a vague familiarity with the terminology which is couched in legalese that the NFL is now using to cover it’s tracks, when any officiating decision generates debate.
The Lions have run the full gamut of strange officiating decisions between Calvin Johnson’s not “completing the process” to Ndamukong Suh’s “non-football” act which drew a personal foul after tackling Bears QB Jay Cutler Sunday and last, but not least, the ridiculously poor call of a “horse collar” tackle, also by Suh, after he legally tackled Cowboys RB Marion Barber III, by his dreadlocks. It is becoming surreal.
After the game, in a pool report, Hochuli said, “I felt it was an unnecessary non-football act–a blow to the back of the runner’s helmet in the process of him going down.“
This season, the NFL has become increasingly concerned about the health and safety of it’s players, rightfully so. That being said, the sport of football is a violent, collision-filled game, which in principle, fosters aggressiveness. Players like Ndamukong Suh make their well-compensated living by delivering vicious and aggressive hits. Fans have made football arguably America’s most popular sport contingent upon these type of plays.
Ultimately, Suh’s tackle/personal foul didn’t determine the game’s final outcome
but not one person believed that the Lions would be able to mentally overcome the impact of such an ill-timed and costly personal foul, at the time in the game in which it occurred. I was far from surprised that little used TE Brandon Manumaleuna was able to walk into the end zone untouched, the very next play, as the Lions defense fell into disarray.
“Jim Schwartz: But it’s been reported that the flag was thrown because Cutler was hit in the back of the head when he was in the process of going down. I think it’s fairly obvious that neither of those ended up being correct.”
The fact that former NFL vice president of officiating, Mike Pereira has become a regular fixture during NFL broadcast’s in an attempt to explain controversial officiating decisions and has become a household name since he explained to us that Calvin Johnson “did not complete the process” in the Lions Week One loss. Pereira continued broadcast appearances are a sign that the game of football itself has become too convoluted for it’s own good.
Schwartz said, “Yeah, I don’t know. I know he wasn’t hit in the head and I know he wasn’t going down, I know that for sure. There are a lot of things that somebody thinks they see on the field, they think he stepped out of bounds but he really didn’t, or they think it was a facemask and it really wasn’t. That stuff occurs, it happens in the game.
“Non-football act, I really don’t know what the definition of that is and I have not seen a definition of ‘non-football act’ before.”
The NFL is undertaking a plan to alter the nature of it’s game, change it’s essence. As the season’s march forward, assuming labor unrest doesn’t bring the NFL to it’s knees, I am increasingly concerned that terminology like “non-football” acts will lead to the demise of a once proud and popular sport.
Football is a visceral and emotionally-charged sport. If you take the jingoistic and vicarious gratification of violent urges out of the game, and replace it with shills like Pereira giving clarifications drenched in imprecise, vague verbiage, I wonder if many fans will even be left to care in the future.
Lions fans have now endured 10 straight seasons of 10 or more losses. The Lions have also lost 19 straight all-too-important divisional contests. Pairing that with a horrendous 26-game road losing streak and signs of optimism for the Lions are becoming imperceptible, at this point.
Jim Schwartz says it best, while discussing the Lions loss:
“Like I said, when you play a close game, you can sit there and look at plays in the first quarter, you can look at all those different plays and say that was the play of the game, and the truth is, you’re right,” Schwartz said. “Every single one of those is the play of the game.“
Every team experiences a few plays in each game that could decide the game’s final outcome. Lions fans might lament poor calls and missed opportunities, but that is just it–in the NFL, you make your own fortune.
Good teams will seize those few opportunities and not allow the circumstances in which they occur to determine the game’s final outcome. The Lions have traditionally come up just short during crucial points in the game.
There is clearly something endemic within the Lions organization which does not allow them to make the improvements necessary to capitalize upon their opportunities, and pre-determines their propensity for committing crucial errors at inopportune times, too.
All I know is, as the Lions season continues towards another disappointing 2-14 ending, I am not sure there are signs of hope for the future, even if the Lions possess some quality young talent, which they could conceivably build their team around.
I am currently left with the bitter feeling that the 4-24 beginning to Jim Schwartz’s career is more and more of an indication of his inability to be the one who will be able to position the Lions to win a close game like Sunday’s loss, in the future.
Seven or eight of the Lions losses this season have been incredibly similar to yesterday’s loss, close, but not close enough. A trend is beginning to form, that is marking Schwartz’s continually failing tenure.
After yesterday’s loss, it is becoming increasingly likely that these horrible losing streaks and close losses will continue to mount, and last longer than the remaining duration of Jim Schwartz’s career as Lions head coach.
As if matters couldn’t grow any more bleak, the closest thing that the Lions could cling to as a constant upon their entire roster, K Jason Hanson, will miss the remainder of the season, due to a knee injury.
In Hanson’s nineteen seasons, he had previously only missed one game. This season he will only have kicked in eight of the Lions 16 games. However, during his brief season, he converted 12 of 14 field goal attempts, as well as being perfect on all 16 of his PAT’s.
The Lions now need to be able to depend upon journeymen K Dave Rayner, who in his brief time as a Lion, has missed two out of his first six field goal attempts.
Many Lions fans have grown weary of Hanson’s future, as his kickoffs have become shorter and his consistent performance has become less of a foregone conclusion than it once was.
The only response that I have to those who doubt Hanson is, be careful what you wish for. As the season marches on, and Dave Rayner is called upon to make a field goal(s) late in the game, the Lions will likely miss Hanson dearly. Hanson has been an elite kicker throughout his career, will Rayner be able to match him?
Hanson indicated that he plans on continuing his career:
I am not going to disappear,” he said, hours after the Lions placed him injured reserve, effectively ending his 19th season. “It’s hard during the season to start thinking about next year, but I have to. I am going to get healthy and get ready to prove myself again next spring.“
The Lions also received some slightly encouraging news regarding Shaun Hill. Hill’s injury, although worrisome, may not sideline the quick-healing Hill for the remainder of the season.
Hill has every intention of returning to the field, before the season’s end. Depending upon the performance of Drew Stanton (and a potential return to health for Matthew Stafford), Hill’s return might not be able to come a moment to soon.
Amid a four game losing streak, the Lions season is continuingly charting an alarmingly undesirable course. The Lions could be compelled to return Stafford to the field, but would be much more prudent to rush Hill, if they have got a choice.
Hill has lead the team admirably. As much as I hope that Drew Stanton flourishes, and proves to have future value for the Lions (or elsewhere), there are worse things than having to call upon Hill, as he has proven.
The Lions played really well for three quarters of last Thursday’s annual Thanksgiving game. Then during the fourth quarter, the Lions lack of depth, talent-shortage, and bad luck all conspired together to lead to a multiple touchdown loss to the Patriots.
As if Matthew Stafford’s injury, along with the Lions now three game losing streak, wasn’t bad enough, the news that the Lions will likely be without Shaun Hill for the remaining duration of the season, makes the Lions once promising season resemble that of so many during recent seasons–a devout failure.
The Lions will start QB Drew Stanton against the Bears Sunday. They are clearly not confident in Stanton, nor his backup Zac Robinson, since they also worked out both J.T. O’Sullivan and Josh McCown on Tuesday. Yuck!
The Lions are likely to be compelled to rush Matthew Stafford back later in the season, as their season continues to run off of the rails. Nothing about Stafford’s imminent return makes any sense. The Lions absolutely need to make sure that Stafford is preserved for future use, and can devote an entire healthy off-season to strength and conditioning, as well as preparation to lead the team in 2011.
As if nothing can make it any more abundantly obvious, the Lions absolutely need to address their offensive line during the off-season. The Lions have no running game to be spoken of, and now have had their starting and backup QB each injured (and re-injured) in the space of half of a season.
The injuries are not entirely a result of poor offensive line play, but that, combined with a poor rushing attack, placing the Lions into a high number of third and long yardage situations, has jeopardized them for sure. The more frequently this situation occurs, the more likely the QB is to be exposed as a vulnerable target.
Furthermore, the Lions have often played from behind, even if the games are close. Again, this another symptom which might lead to a QB being overexposed to heavy hits.
The Lions front office has neglected to upgrade it’s offensive line for nearly ten seasons now, and the players that they have selected have been mostly mediocre and undependable, rather than providing the consistency that the Lions so desperately need (No, Jeff Backus’s consecutive starts streak doesn’t count for consistency).
An upgraded offensive line is inextricably linked with the future success of the Lions organization, regardless of who is the team’s starting QB.
The back story for Sunday’s game will be that the Lions decision to select Stanton was made while Rod Marinelli and Mike Martz were each coaching in Detroit. They are both now acting as the “Odd Couple” coordinators for a surprisingly improved Bears team.
Martz quickly turned on Stanton as a raw project and likely stunted or completely ruined any chance that Stanton may have had for future NFL success.
After the Lions disappointing, arguably stolen loss to the Bears in week one, they would like nothing more than to exact some revenge upon the Bears. The same goes for Stanton, as he attempts to make his case as a potential starter in the NFL. He would likely be interested in showing up his former coaches, too.
Ultimately, as much as I would like to remain positive, this situation does not appear to bode well for the hapless Lions.