The Detroit Lions went 1-3 in the preseason. Each side of the ball showed glimpses of solid football but, for most of the preseason, they did not reveal much of a reason to get the city of Detroit excited for the 2018 season. Some organizations in the NFL can just flip a switch for game one and look like a completely different team. Only time will tell what the season will look like under first year head coach, Matt Patricia.
A big part of how this season unfolds on offense will solely depend on how the offensive line performs. Injuries up front have hurt the Lions for a couple of seasons. But with a healthy group heading into week one on Monday night against the New York Jets, there are no excuses to not get the job done in the trenches.
Adding both Rick Wagner at right tackle and T.J. Lang at right guard in 2017 was supposed to solidify the issues in the run game, but they have not played with the ability they did with their previous teams. That has to change if the Lions want to even have a chance at winning the loaded NFC North. Expect Taylor Decker to continue to improve and anchor the left tackle spot for Matthew Stafford’s blindside all year long with no problems. He is a rising star at his position and will be a Detroit Lion for many years to come.
The question that remains is how well their center and left guard combination will be with two young guys. Center, Graham Glasgow, and first-round draft pick, left guard, Frank Ragnow, have a lot to prove at their respective positions.
The Lions have the best tandem of running backs at their disposal since Matthew Stafford got drafted back in 2009. The quickness of Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah in the screen game, as well as mismatches they bring out of the backfield on linebackers, is something of which they will take advantage.
Adding LeGarrette Blount in the offseason and drafting Kerryon Johnson out of Auburn University was integral in trying to establish an identity running the football. Blount is almost impossible to stop near the goal line and in 3rd and short situations with his 6-foot, 247-pound frame. The hidden gem in the run game will be Kerryon Johnson, though. If there will be a back that will finally get Detroit over the hump of not having a 100-yard rusher in a game since 2011, Kerryon Johnson will be the man to do it. He’s strong, can put on the afterburners, and has excellent patience to allow blocks to unfold in front of him before he accelerates through the hole. He’s a true all-purpose back for Detroit. Expect him to get the load of the carries in 2018.
If he is protected and has the ability to hand the football off 20 to 25 times a game with success, Matthew Stafford will have another great season at quarterback with his plethora of wide receivers to throw to in Marvin Jones Sr., Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay and TJ. Jones. If there is no run game, the statement “Same ole’ Lions” will once again filter the air in Detroit. Though Stafford is a top 15 quarterback in the NFL, he is not Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees who can throw the ball 45, 50 times a game and be successful every week. He needs to have a run game to be the best quarterback he can be.
Matt Patricia served as the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator for five seasons. His defenses were always in the top 10 in total defense every year. Though a coach is a product of the players he gets to coach, there is no better organization in football that develops talent than the New England Patriots. The Lions are hoping he can bring that success to Detroit.
After only seeing a snip bit of the starters on defense during the preseason, what was showcased was a underwhelming defense. The run defense was more consistent than the pass, but neither brought excitement to the city of Detroit. There was virtually no pass rush by the front seven, they did not cover any team well and missed some routine tackles. It doesn’t matter who is in the secondary, if there is no pressure on the quarterback, it will be a long season defensively.
Ezekiel Ansah needs to return to the player he was back in 2015 when he recorded 14 sacks and wreaked havoc up front. If he and Kerry Hyder Jr. can get rolling off the edge, the secondary led by Glover Quinn and Darius Slay will be able to cover the back end of the defense.
With the Lions opening up Monday night at home against a rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold from the New York Jets, the Lions should win even if they play subpar football. Week two on the road against the San Francisco 49ers will be the team’s first test to give the Lion faithful an idea of if they can compete in the NFC North this year.
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