Week 1 against the New York Jets on Monday night was rough to watch. That was a game where Matt Patricia and his coaching staff watched about 30 minutes of the game with the team, addressed the mistakes and erased it from memory. For the Lion faithful, there was no expectation heading on the road against the San Francisco 49ers after what they witnessed the week before.
Though the Lions lost, there was an improvement, but they still have a lot of work to do to even think about salvaging the 2018 season.
Positive Takeaways from the Offense
Detroit’s biggest strength is their variety of weapons at their disposal from their receiving core, tight ends and running backs. Any one of those positions can reek havoc on a defense. In week two, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. led the way with their big chunk plays to give the Lions a chance to win the game.
The Lions had 71 total plays of offense on Sunday, 53 of those plays were Matthew Stafford dropping back to pass. Though Stafford had to climb the pocket and extend plays at times, the offensive line kept him up on 51 of those plays, which is not an easy thing to do in the NFL no matter what defense the Lions face.
Kerryon Johnson, too, continues to get more comfortable in the Lions’ run and pass scheme. One thing he does well that goes unnoticed is his ability to diagnose and pick up the blitz on pass plays. He is the Lions only all-purpose back.
Positive Takeaways on defense
The pass rush against the Jets in week one was non-existent. In week two, the Lions found a way to get to Jimmy Garappolo six times on 26 pass attempts. A strong pass rush only can only improve the defense at large.
The defense also got off the field on third down. The 49ers were only able to convert three times on eleven third down attempts. Consistency getting off the field will be huge for the Lions to give Matthew Stafford and his offense more chances to put the ball in the end-zone.
Needs to be addressed on offense
Offensive Coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, and his offensive staff must have thought that their best chance to have success against the 49ers was through the passing game. Stafford is a top 15 talent in the NFL at his position. With that said, Stafford is not Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees who can drop back to pass 50 times a game and be successful week in and week out. Stafford needs a reliable run game in order for him to be at his best.
During the past few seasons, Stafford has had some excellent seasons under center in Detroit. This year he has struggled with accuracy and reading defenses more than he has in years past. His mid to long ball accuracy has been below average in the first two games of 2018 season. If the Lions want to turn their ship around, it starts with #9.
To help Stafford out, Cooter and his offensive line need to find a run scheme that can be successful. If the Lions look at the film, their best plays are when they are getting extra hats to the side they run the ball to by pulling linemen on plays like power, counter (gap) and sweep concept plays. The Lions’ offensive line is not built to be a down-hill, inside/outside zone team. They need to do something different, or it will be another long year in the run game in Detroit.
Needs to be addressed on defense
The Lions in back-to-back weeks have not been able to stop the run. The Jets and 49ers dominated the defensive front of the Lions. I know the Lions are under a new defense and it takes time to adjust to a new scheme, but the inability to stop the run must change if they even want to hold a chance to win the NFC North title. It will not get any easier with Tom Brady and New England Patriots coming to town this Sunday.
The Lions secondary is arguably the worst part of their defense. The Lions had 10 penalties, for 105 yards, and mostly coming from the defensive side of the football. The secondary could not keep their hands off the wide receivers from the 49ers. Quandre Diggs is a prime example of that with his 4th quarter hold off an interception that put the Lions inside the 10 yard-line to potentially take the lead. The Lions multiple times shot themselves in the foot. That can’t happen if they want to have any type of success this season.
Matt Patricia loves to play man coverage, but if the secondary cannot do their part, expect to see much more zone blitz pressures to help the secondary.
Unfortunately, with Tom Brady being the quarterback the Lions face next, and with the addition of a playmaker in Josh Gordon from Cleveland, it will be a big mountain to climb to tame the Patriots on Sunday night in the Motor City.
Featured image courtesy of Pride of Detroit
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