2018-19 Detroit Lions Season Preview

I have to say, I do not have a good feel for how the Lions are going to do this year. Matt Patricia has to overhaul the entire defense and there’s been a lot of turnover on the roster. I’m not a big Jim Bob Cooter fan, but he’s back and still calling plays. Hopefully Patricia will take the reins off a bit…it was understandably vanilla in the preseason, but they must be more aggressive and less predictable than last year. There is one thing that I’m 100% confident about and that is if Matthew Stafford gets hurt and misses significant time, the Lions will not win a game without him.

OFFENSE

Pretty simple at the quarterback situation. You’ve got an unbelievable gunslinger in the starting spot in Matthew Stafford. An old veteran that cannot play any more (and maybe never could) in Matt Cassel and then an Iowa QB washout that had one above average year under Jim Harbaugh in Jake Rudock on your practice squad. They worked out Paxton Lynch this week, which, good for the Lions for doing their due diligence. But seriously, if Matthew Stafford misses any sort of time, forget about it. It is an absolute wasteland behind him. If the offensive line can protect him, the Lions have a chance to make some moves. Stafford has really come into his own the past few seasons and I think he’s finally ready to take the next step and win a playoff game.

Running back was a position of focus in the offseason. The Lions added LeGarrette Blount and then traded up to draft Kerryon Johnson. After watching Dwayne Washington get stuffed on a bunch of 3rd and 4th and short situations, I did not need to watch him run the ball again as the “power back.” Obviously Bob Quinn felt the same (especially after the Steelers game) because Washington is gone. Blount will add obvious experience and power to the running game and has the ability to make something out of nothing. Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick return…Riddick will be featured in the passing game and I would expect Ameer to get a sprinkle of touches for now. Kerryon was kept under wraps a lot during the preseason, save for one run against Oakland, and I’m curious to see how he explodes onto the scene this year. Everything I’ve seen and read seems to indicate a poor man’s Le’Veon Bell, which I would be more than okay with. I hope they utilize Theo Riddick more in the passing game and have him lineup in the slot to give them mismatches.

Wide receiver did not see any changes in the top four with Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay and TJ Jones. Marvin Jones and Golden Tate were very legit last year and for all the hype Golladay got, he was solid but not spectacular. I’m optimistic that both Golladay and Jones take a big time step forward with Eric Ebron gone. Bradley Marquez is a pure special teamer and I think they will work Brandon Powell in on some gadget plays and try to get him the ball in space. Either way, Jones and Tate are dynamic and are going to lead this group. No Eric Ebron means that the pass catching talent level took a hit (yeah I said it). I’m not an Ebron fan, and I think he was a bad draft pick, but he had talent. Sure, he had his drops, but Luke Willson, Levine Toilolo, Hakeem Valles and Michael Roberts has to be the worst tight end group in the NFL. The Lions just need them to not suck and to be able to block in the run game.

The offensive line SHOULD finally be solidified with the addition of Frank Ragnow. That being said, you can never be too sure and TJ Lang playing exactly 0 snaps in the preseason and hardly practicing is very discouraging. That being said, your OL will look like this:

LT: Taylor Decker LG: Frank Ragnow C: Graham Glasgow RG: TJ Lang RT: Rick Wagner

Last year the unit was supposed to be better but they were absolutely riddled with injuries. Tough to do your job or be an elite unit if someone is always hurt. Tyrell Crosby will be your backup swing tackle and Joe Dahl will be your primary backup interior OL. Hopefully they do not have to play too much because this OL unit should be one of the best in the league. Glasgow is better at C than LG and apparently Ragnow can maul anywhere. Decker needs to play better and so does Rick Wagner. Both were disappointing last year, and even though Decker was coming off of injury, I expect more out of him.

DEFENSE

The defense is going to look extremely different this year. Between the personnel and the scheme, it will be unrecognizable to a lot of fans. Obviously the weakest part of the defense is the defensive line and its depth. The only thing that gives me encouragement for their ability to rush the passer is that the Patriots never really invested a lot in their pass rushers and they still managed to get pressure.

Ziggy Ansah is going to have to have a big year for the Lions defense and he is going to have to be more consistent. Last year he finished with 12 sacks but he had 3 games with 3 sacks. Not exactly the peak of consistency. Getting Kerry Hyder back should help out, but Hyder is far from a superstar. Cutting Anthony Zettel for Romeo Okwara was an interesting decision, and I do not know what to expect from Okwara, but Zettel was good last year when he was given an opportunity. Drafting Da’Shawn Hand gives the Lions versatility they need with the lack of depth, but again, he’s not exactly a stud pass rusher. Ricky Jean Francois and Sylvester Williams are brand new in the interior and I loved what I saw from RJF in the preseason, but the Lions are going to need his play to carry over into the regular season. I thought A’Shawn Robinson might win a starting spot this year, but it does not look like that is the case as of yet. Robinson is another guy the Lions need to take a step forward.

Linebacker saw a lot of turnover, with only two players returning. Jarrad Davis is a stud in the middle and as long as he does not miss tackles like he did in the preseason, he should have a monster year. Jalen Reeves-Maybin enters year two as a Lion and I expect him to take a step forward. I’m a fan of him in coverage I would expect him to play a lot. The Lions added Eli Harold and Marquis Flowers late so I do not expect them to be more than backups to start the season. Devon Kennard and Christian Jones were two of their “big” acquisitions and I hope they can get the job done. Kennard is the edge rusher of the group and he is going to have to be a major factor rushing the pass rusher and build off his 4 sacks from last season.

The secondary is the strength of this defense, no doubt about it. Darius Slay is a Top 10 corner in the league and Glover Quin continues to be one of the most underrated safeties in the league. Quandre Diggs made a great transition last year from corner to safety and based on his big contract extension, has beaten Tavon Wilson out for the starting strong safety spot. Teez Tabor and Nevin Lawson are the two corners of the group that I expect major improvement from. Lawson is better in the slot than outside in my opinion, and after bringing him along slowly, Tabor showed some flashes in the preseason. My hope is that Tabor takes over the starting outside spot during the season so Lawson can play inside. Jamal Agnew got a lot more reps at corner this preseason, but I do not see him being a major contributor on defense. The real interesting question is how do Tracy Walker and Miles Killebrew fit in and how much do they play. They drafted Walker to be a matchup defender but I do not think he’s ready for that kind of responsibility at the moment. Killebrew is a tweener and they tried to fit him in at linebacker this preseason, but I think he’s mostly going to play a depth/special teamer role. While the secondary is the strength, you can see that they’re not very deep. In fact, the defense as a whole has depth issues, so say a prayer or two for everyone to stay healthy.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Absolutely nothing has changed here. The only thing I’ll say is Jamal Agnew better be returning punts and kicks and if he’s not because they want him playing meaningful snaps on defense, then Brandon Powell better return kicks. I’m not a fan of Ameer Abdullah back there.

SEASON PREDICTION

2018 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
WK DATE OPPONENT TIME (ET) W/L
1 Mon, Sep 10 vs NY Jets 7:10 PM ESPN/WatchESPN W
2 Sun, Sep 16 @ San Francisco 4:05 PM FOX W
3 Sun, Sep 23 vs New England 8:20 PM NBC L
4 Sun, Sep 30 @ Dallas 1:00 PM FOX W
5 Sun, Oct 7 vs Green Bay 1:00 PM FOX L
6 BYE WEEK
7 Sun, Oct 21 @ Miami 1:00 PM FOX W
8 Sun, Oct 28 vs Seattle 1:00 PM FOX W
9 Sun, Nov 4 @ Minnesota 1:00 PM FOX L
10 Sun, Nov 11 @ Chicago 1:00 PM FOX W
11 Sun, Nov 18 vs Carolina 1:00 PM FOX L
12 Thu, Nov 22 vs Chicago 12:30 PM CBS W
13 Sun, Dec 2 vs LA Rams 1:00 PM FOX L
14 Sun, Dec 9 @ Arizona 4:25 PM FOX W
15 Sun, Dec 16 @ Buffalo 1:00 PM FOX W
16 Sun, Dec 23 vs Minnesota 1:00 PM FOX W
17 Sun, Dec 30 @ Green Bay 1:00 PM FOX L

Even though the Lions looked like total ass in the preseason, I’m thinking there is no reason they cannot go 9-7 or 10-6. And no, I’m not talking wins or losses when I’m talking about looking bad in the preseason. I’m talking about the first team offense not being able to move the ball and the first team defense looking like a doormat. Sure, the defense would lock it up in the red zone occasionally, but it was highly concerning to see how freely teams moved the ball and how the Lions looked like they were trying to run their offense against a team of mutants. Yes, the Patriots were the Kings of letting the opponent move the ball all over the field and locking it up in the red zone, but they’re going to have to do better at locking up if this defensive style is going to work. All of that negative stuff being said, they have a favorable schedule. The AFC East is trash minus the Patriots and I think that Arizona and Seattle are sneaky bad. Add in two games against Chicago and that is theoretically 7 wins without blinking an eye. Yes, those are far from guarantees and there is a reason you play the game, but they’re not exactly looking at a non-division gauntlet.

Bob Quinn made major moves this offseason to try to get the Lions turned around. Between the Draft, Free Agency and hiring an entirely new coaching staff except for Jim Bob Cooter, he’s pulling out all of the stops. Going to keep my fingers crossed that this all works out for the Lions and that their draft picks develop.

[Photo via: NY Daily News]
[Photo via: Sporting News]
[Photo via: The Athletic]

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