The Detroit Lions: Underachieving to say the least

I’ve been waiting to write a post on the Detroit Lions because they’ve been incredibly frustrating to watch and last night was obviously as frustrating as usual.  The special teams have been nothing short of embarrassing, and they were quite honestly, very lucky to beat the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

The loss against the Vikings prior to the bye week, following the loss to the Titans was purely crippling.  Back-to-back weeks giving up a kick return touchdown and a punt return touchdown was the first time it had ever happened in the NFL.  The defense has looked good, but the offensive play calling has been utterly pathetic.  Titus Young has been nothing short of bad so far this year, and has contributed to the underachieving on offense.

Not necessarily when you consider passing yards, but the fact that the Detroit Lions keep having to settle for field goals instead of getting touchdowns.  Or as they decided last night on Monday Night Football, to just turn the ball over three times in the red zone.  I mean honestly, hold onto the damn football.  Too many fumbles, and they can’t get any turnovers to save their life.  You will not win many football games when you are always negative in the turnover column.  The only real positives I saw last night was another solid defensive performance and the emergence of Ryan Broyles looking like a diamond in the rough.

And when they were holding onto the football the play calling was predictable and terrible.  Honestly I want the offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to be fired.  I think he’s had his chance at this point, and sure it may mean that our offense will have growing pains next year, but it can’t get any worse.  Matt Stafford hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in the first half of a game this year; a pathetically bad statistic.  Most of the time we get yards and can keep our averages up is because of the fact that we’re already out of a game so a team goes into the prevent and we just rack up garbage time yards.  The Lions are the kings of garbage time yards right now.

There aren’t even highlights I want to insert into this post because they’ve been so terrible.  All I have to share are commercials.  Maybe the team spent too much time reading their press clippings this Summer and thought they could just show up and win.

The issues are everywhere on offense.  When Matt Stafford isn’t throwing off his back foot or overthrowing receivers, Brandon Pettigrew or Titus Young are dropping passes.  I’m even starting to wonder if the reason for the poor mechanics from Stafford is from the fact that he is hiding an injury or trying to play through one.  I mean, honestly, this team regressed this offseason.  I firmly believe that this team is infinitely worse than the one last year, and there has hardly been any change in the personnel.

Granted I’ve been very pleased with the defense, and their play on the defensive side of the ball.  But, the offense and the special teams, are not good.  They need a runningback to emerge.  Mikel Leshoure has done pretty well, but he doesn’t hit the holes fast enough, yes he is a downhill runner, but the offensive line is so bad at run blocking that they can’t keep the holes open for a very long time.  Plus, they keep trying to run him to the outside on off tackle runs, but he needs to be running between the tackles on draws and isos.  With safeties playing 18 yards off the line of scrimmage, he should be getting like 8-10 yards per carry.

This is where Jahvid Best would be killing it with his speed and quickness.  Unfortunately there aren’t any doctors that will sign off and let him play, because they don’t want to be responsible for his well-being, and/or get sued by him if he gets another concussion and develops brain damage down the road.  I’ve also been told by one of my dad’s friends that works for ESPN/ABCs production crew that Best’s girlfriend wants him to retire and doesn’t want him to keep playing and has threatened to leave him if he signs a waiver saying he’ll play and not sue anyone if he’s hurt.  If that is truly the case I’ve lost some respect for Best, who cares what this girl thinks, help your squad out, especially if you have been symptom free since April.

The underlying question, with the Detroit Lions sitting at 2-4, with an immensely tough schedule left is, where do we go from here?

First off, don’t bet on making the playoffs.  Not from what I’ve seen.  This team would have to have a drastic turnaround in order to achieve something like this.  Considering how many good teams are in the NFC, they would have to have at least 9 wins, which means they have to go 7-3 down the stretch, and that is at the very bare minimum.  That would difficult enough even without their schedule.  Their only hope is that the NFC just keeps beating up on each other and no one has an elite record.

That’s some tough sledding ahead.  So what can they do?  Let the rookies get a lot of playing time and get ready for the future.  This team has potential, everyone saw it last year, so it’s time to let that potential grow with the players getting more experience.

They need to get Cliff Avril down to a reasonable contract and if he wants $10 million when his franchise tag is up, then I would let him walk in free agency.  They don’t have enough cap room to give a guy with 3.5 sacks through 6 games a huge contract.

They need a number one corner.  Jacob Lacey, when healthy, and Bill Bentley will be 3rd and 4th corners, but Chris Houston is a pure #2 guy.  I will give him credit, he has done well so far this year, and the pass defense has been very good this year, but they still need that shutdown guy.  I’m thinking Dee Milliner, the cornerback from Alabama, in the first round of draft will do just fine.

They also need to improve the offensive line.  Riley Rieff has looked great and is definitely the future at left tackle, but they need a new right guard.  I can’t stand Stephen Peterman and they need a guy who can pull block and open holes in the run game, a task he cannot do.  Perhaps if they can’t get Milliner, they can look at his Crimson Tide teammate and draft offensive guard Chance Womack.  Good thing for the Lions, this draft will be very defensive lineman heavy, so they should have their pick of the other need positions…I hope.

Short of a few personnel changes, they big issues I would look into would be a new special teams coordinator and a new offensive coordinator.  The special teams have been utterly atrocious, whether it’s giving up return touchdowns or fumbling punts or having holds or blocks in the back, they just haven’t been good enough.  I would also then look at getting rid of the offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.  He hasn’t opened up the playbook and they aren’t being creative enough.  It’s too predictable and with Calvin Johnson, they should be able to get points on the board.  He makes other people open and makes other players better because of the attention he commands and still they don’t have a first half touchdown pass.  If you aren’t going to fire him, then Jim Schwartz as the Head Coach needs to sit him down and tell him to get his act together and do a better job.  Take responsibility.

People also complain about the Lions lack of discipline, but the only reason it is a problem is because they are losing games.  When they were winning last year, nobody complained about the Bad Boys.  All I know is Ndamukong Suh needs to keep playing like he did last night and keep that nastiness in his game.  He can’t be afraid to get fined once in a while.  Hopefully this team doesn’t fold and can still somehow make it to 7 or 8 wins…thank god Megatron signed his long term deal last summer.

GIF Via: Diehard Sport

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