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Detroit Lions: Improvement on the Horizon

Detroit Lions: Improvement on the Horizon

The Lions had a very disappointing season in 2019, finishing at 3-12-1, the third-worst record in the NFL. One big reason for this poor record was Matthew Stafford‘s back injury, forcing him to miss half of the season. His replacement, David Blough, was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, and the Lions’ offense suffered severely. But with Stafford on track to start for all of 2020, things are looking up for Detroit.

Good Offseason, Most Needs Addressed

Defense
Detroit Lions: Improvement on the Horizon
The Lions drafted Okudah with the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Image courtesy of Paul Sancya, Associated Press.

While the Lions’ record was embarrassing last year, it led to them getting the third overall pick. They selected cornerback Jeff Okudah, a younger version of Darius Slay. Though they did lose Slay to the Eagles, Slay struggled at the end of last season, and Okudah could end up being even better. Detroit also signed Falcons’ corner Desmond Trufant and Patriots’ safety Duron Harmon to solidify a well-rounded secondary.

The Lions had the worst defensive line in football last year, with a 24 percent pass rush win rate. While they signed Patriots’ defensive tackle Danny Shelton in an attempt to fill this hole, the defensive line is still below average. However, Detroit signed yet another Patriots player to remedy this. They acquired linebacker Jamie Collins, who was incredible for New England last year. With 85 tackles, seven sacks and three interceptions, Collins can do it all. While their defensive line could still use some work, the rest of the defense is rock-solid.

Offense

With the return of Stafford and a stacked receiving corps, the Lions offense is already a force to be reckoned with for any defense. However, they still made a couple of offensive moves. In the 2020 NFL Draft, they selected running back D’Andre Swift with the 35th pick. Though Swift was dominant in college, he will have to compete with Kerryon Johnson for carries. Neither back is a great receiver, so this pick may not have been correct for Detroit. The Lions also signed offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai to bolster their mediocre offensive line, giving even more support to Stafford. With targets like Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola, extra time for Stafford will create problems for opponents.

The Menacing NFC North: a Schedule Nightmare

Detroit Lions: Improvement on the Horizon
Stafford stays cool in the pocket despite the imminent pressure from Harrison Smith. Image courtesy of Tim Fuller, USA Today Sports.

Even with a last-place schedule ahead in 2020, the Lions still have many challenging games ahead. Needing to face the Packers and Vikings twice will likely lead to four losses. Not to mention the Bears, who, while not well-rounded, are still a decent opponent. Based on last season’s records, the Lions have the fifth-hardest schedule in 2020. Their opponents had an average win percentage of .525 last year. Despite the great strides Detroit will take this season, it will not be enough for a playoff run. Look for the Lions to go 6-10. If Stafford plays out of his mind as he did in 2019, they could finish 7-9, but it looks like the Lions will have to continue to wait before earning their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

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