YOOOAdrian’s 2010 NFL Preview- Detroit Lions

The Lions haven’t sniffed the postseason since 2000; but things are looking up with 3 franchise players in quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and newly acquired 2nd overall NFL Draft pick defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  There will still be a lot of growing pains as this team continues to progress, but hey, it can’t get worse than 2008.  I won’t get into what their record was that season.  A playoff berth is unlikely, but in a matter of 2-3 years, that playoff berth may be a possible destination.

Quarterback

Matthew Stafford- 201/377  53.3%  2,267 yds  13 td  20 int  61.0 rat

Detroit hasn’t had a Pro-Bowl quarterback since 1971 when Greg Landry was slinging it around in the “Motor City.”  Stafford could be a future Pro-Bowler.  Stafford started from week 1 last season and had his ups and downs.  The highlight of the season came against Cleveland as Stafford threw a game-winning touchdown pass with no time remaining.

(Matthew Stafford)

Stafford has a cannon and showed tremendous leadership qualities even as a rookie.  He did struggle with his accuracy and like any rookie quarterback, he needs to improve on his decision making.  He threw 20 interceptions.  As long as Stafford can stay healthy (he suffered through shoulder and knee injuries last year), Stafford could become an elite quarterback in the league.

 Others- Shaun Hill, Drew Stanton

Hill is a proven starter who has a career 2:1 touchdown/interception ratio.  Stanton is a former 2nd-round pick from Michigan State.

GRADE- 7

Running Backs

Kevin Smith- 217 car  747 yds  3.4 avg 4 td  41 rec  415 yds  1 td

Smith is a tough back who has good vision.  He hits the hole hard and churns through initial contact.  We’ll see how Smith returns coming back from an ACL injury in December.

Smith is not a home run threat.  Out of 455 career carries, Smith has just 10 carries over 20 yards.

Jahvid Best- ROOKIE

Best is the home run threat Detroit has been looking before.  Best has excellent speed to go along with good vision.  He also possesses solid receiving skills.  The only setback with Best, like Smith, Best is injury prone.

(Jahvid Best)

Others- Maurice Morris, Jerome Felton

Morris isn’t very creative in his running, but he’s a viable 3rd option.

Felton is purely a blocking fullback.

GRADE- 7

Receivers

Calvin Johnson- 67 rec  984 yds  14.7 avg  5 td

Johnson, “Megatron” as they call him, has all the ability to become the best receiver in the NFL one day.  He’s tall, strong and possesses effortless speed.  He’s becoming a better route runner and setting up his defensive backs.

(Calvin Johnson)

Johnson often got frustrated last season because he was constantly doubled and triple teamed. 

Nate Burleson- 63 rec  812 yds  12.9 avg  3 td

The Lions are hoping that Burleson can free up Johnson from all the “bracket” coverage he saw last year. 

Burleson has deceptive speed with solid hands and the ability to break tackles.

Bryant Johnson- 35 rec  417 yds  11.9 avg  3 td

Johnson has the physical qualities to be a quality receiver, but he’s been to inconsistent.

TE- Brandon Pettigrew- 30 rec  346 yds  11.5 avg  2 td

Pettigrew is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in November.  He’s a chain-moving receiver with solid run blocking skills.

Others- Tony Scheffler, Derrick Williams

Scheffler is a tight end acquired in a trade from Denver.  Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan likes to use 2 tight end sets so Scheffler will see the field.  He has good receiving skills and runs the seam well.

GRADE- 7.5

Offensive Line

LT- Jeff Backus

At 32, Backus may have had his best season as a pro.  He’s solid as both a pass protector and run blocker.  He’s also good at getting out on screens.

(Jeff Backus)

LG- Rob Sims

Sims is the 15th different starting left guard for Detroit since 2001.  He came over via trade from Seattle.  He didn’t fit Seattle’s new zone blocking scheme.  He’s more of a short area physical player.

C- Dominic Raiola

Raiola has been consistent every year for Detroit since being drafted by the Lions in 2001.  He’s smart, savvy and a leader on this team.

RG- Stephen Peterman

The Lions missed Peterman who went down with an injury and missed the final 7 games.  He’s another short area mauler who consistently wins individual battles.

RT- Gosder Cherilus

A 1st round pick in 2008, this is a make or break year for Cherilus who’s struggled at times with mental lapses.  He has long arms and athletic ability to make the necessary strides this season.

GRADE- 7

Defensive Line

 LDE- Cliff Avril-  26 tck  5.5 sck  3 p def  3 ff

Avril is strictly a pass rusher who must get better against the run.

LDT- Ndamukong SuhROOKIE

Suh is the most hyped defensive tackle draftee ever.  He is an absolute rare specimen.  At 6’4 300+ pounds, Suh is extremely athletic to go along with his immense strength.  In college,  Suh single-handidly controlled football games from the defensive tackle position.  He almost won the Big 12 Championship Game against Texas by himself.

(Ndamukong Suh)

Of course, this is the NFL and the competition will be much, much better.  The players will be stronger and faster.  We’ll see how Suh will do.

 RDT- Corey Williams-  31 tck  4 sck  4 p def  1 ff

As a 5 technique in Cleveland, Williams struggled.  As a 4-3 defensive tackle in Green Bay, Williams flourished.  Detroit hopes that Williams can get back to that level

RDE- Kyle Vanden Bosch-  44 tck  3 sck  1 p def  2 ff

Vanden Bosch saw his sack total dip last season without defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth playing alongside him.  Nonetheless, Vanden Bosch has a high motor whose sacks come mostly from effort.  ROLB-

Others- Jared DeVries, Sammie Hill, Jason Hunter

DeVries should rotate with Avril at left defensive end.  DeVries is better at stopping the run than Avril. 

Sammie Hill is a run stuffing defensive tackle who will see the rotation.

GRADE- 7.5

Linebackers

 LOLB- Julian Peterson- 76 tck  4.5 sck  4 p def  5 ff

Peterson is clearly on the downside of his career as he has not been the same effective pass rusher over recent years.  He still continues to be solid against the run taking good angles.

(Julian Peterson)

MLB- DeAndre Levy- 54 tck  1 int  5 p def  1 ff

Levy filled in nicely at the starting weakside linebacker slot for an injured Ernie Sims.  Levy now moves to his more confortable middle linebacker spot.  Levy has good feet but he needs to stop missing tackles.

ROLB- Landon Johnson- 20 tck 

Johnson takes over at weakside linebacker as Ernie Sims was traded to Philadelphia.  Johnson is athletic and smart.

 Others- Zack Follet, Jordan Dizon

Follet is an interesting player because of his good pass rushing abilities.

GRADE- 7

Secondary

 LCB- Chris Houston- 47 tck  1 int  9 p def

Houston is an undersized corner who struggles with bigger receivers.  He has solid man-coverage skills.

RCB- Eric King- 4 tck

There’s not a lot of options at the other starting cornerback position, but it looks like King is the guy.  He struggled in limited playing time last season.

CB- Amari Spievey- ROOKIE

Spievey is best in run support.

FS- Louis Delmas- 63 tck  2 int  8 p def  1 sck

Delmas had a fantastic rookie season.  He’s a feisty, intense competitive player who plays with good instincts.  He had some lapses in coverage, but some of that may have had to do with the poor secondary play.

Louis Delmas Pittsburgh Steelers v Detroit Lions

(Louis Delmas)

 SS- Ko Simpson- 30 tck  1 int  4 p def

Simpson is solid in coverage, but takes bad angles on the ball in run support.

Others- Marvin White, Daniel Bullocks

White and Bullocks will push Simpson for the starting strong safety spot.

GRADE- 7

Special Teams

 PK- Jason Hanson- 21/28 50 lng

Hanson had a sub-par standard.  He seems like he’s been kicking in Detroit for 38 years.

P- Nick Harris- 74 punts  42.9 avg  20 in 20  56 lg

Harris had a so-so season.

KR- Derrick Williams- 42 ret  22.2 avg  34 lg

Williams is dynamic with good quickness.

PR- Dennis Northcutt- 22 ret  8.6 avg  43 lg

Savvy, veteran returner.

Prediction- 3-13

Detroit is clearly a team on the rise.  They’re still young and the defense is still not all that great.  They have a potential solid nucleus with guys like Stafford, Johnson, Suh, Delmas, Best and Pettigrew.

 Offensive MVP- Calvin Johnson

 Defensive MVP- Ndamukong Suh

 Breakthrough- Matthew Stafford

 Overrated- Julian Peterson

 Underrated- Louis Delmas

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