Mason Thompson | July 29th, 2019
The Lions 2018 season left much to be desired. After a great first play from scrimmage resulting in an interception returned for a touchdown, the Lions season turned completely upside down. Matthew Stafford had one of his worst seasons as a pro and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter would be replaced during the offseason by Darrell Bevell. After an up and down start resulting in a 3-3 record midway through October, they would go on to lose seven of the next ten games ending the season with a 6-10 record, their worst since 2012.
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The move that will change the direction of this team the most was the hiring of new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Bevell had a run-centric offense during his time with Seattle from 2010-2017. With the trade of Golden Tate midway through the 2018 season, the Lions had to find a new slot receiver and may have found that with the addition of Danny Amendola. The Lions 17th ranked defense was the main priority during free agency as they handed out contracts to defensive end Trey Flowers, as well as cornerbacks Justin Coleman and Rashaan Melvin.
Following a big free agency period, the Lions followed it up with a good draft. In the first round, they drafted Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson with the eighth pick in the draft. The Lions then turned to the defense taking linebacker Jahlani Tavai, safety Will Harris, defensive end Austin Bryant, and cornerback Amani Oruwariye. The sleeper of the draft class could wind up being wide receiver Travis Fulgham out of Old Dominion. The Lions also signed former Packer Mike Daniels this past week after he was released.
The core of the offense is still intact as the Lions have retained eight starters from the 2018 season. Stafford should have the majority of the load taken off of him as running back Kerryon Johnson should finally emerge as the lead back and be the three-down back in Bevell’s offense with the release of Theo Riddick. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are the top two receivers on the team with Amendola, Fulgham, Hockenson, Jesse James, and Isaac Nauta rounding out the playmakers. The offensive line retains four of the five starters from 2018 with the only loss coming from the retirement of T.J. Lang.
Coach Matt Patricia grew frustrated with this unit as the season went on and it showed as the majority of the offseason was spent trying to improve this side of the ball. The Lions have one of the best front four in the league with the likes of Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, and the additions of Flowers and Daniels. The linebacker position still needs some help as Jarrad Davis hasn’t lived up to his potential and there isn’t much help behind him. Darius Slay is the leader of the secondary as one of the best corners in the game and the front office has finally decided to give him some help with the additions of Coleman, Melvin, and Oruwariye.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
QB (2) Matthew Stafford, Tom Savage
Stafford is the team’s unquestioned starter. Behind him, the Lions have an ongoing competition for the backup position between Savage and David Fales. With Savage’s starting experience, he should get the backup spot.
Johnson is one of the league’s best up-and-coming backs in the league. Anderson showed flashes late last season with the Rams and could handle goal-line work. Zenner is a fan favorite while Ty Johnson is a rookie from Maryland who will make it while also getting a chance as a returner. Bawden makes it as the fullback.
The top three receivers are set in stone but behind them are some major questions. Fulgham is a sixth-round pick who should have no issue making the team as he provides help in the red-zone. Powell is a young guy who could have some work in the slot. Kearse is a veteran who will take the final receiver spot.
TE (3) T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Isaac Nauta
This position is probably the easiest to sort out. Hockenson is one, if not the most complete tight ends to come out in a long time. James got a big contract during free agency and should be used frequently. Nauta was a late-round pick who does his best work as a blocker but will also contribute in the receiving game.
The starting five is set beside the right guard spot where Wiggins and Aboushi should battle it out for the starting position. Crosby is a solid young backup who could start if injuries were to happen to Decker or Wagner.
The Lions go three deep with reliable interior rushers with Harrison, Robinson, and Hand. Bryant was the fourth man on a monstrous Clemson defensive line. Johnson is a bubble player who was their last selection in the draft.
Davis and Tavai are locks to make the roster. Dooley and Reeves-Maybin make the roster as virtual unknowns who can play multiple roles for Patricia’s defense. This position group is the weakest on the roster.
Flowers was the prized pickup during the offseason. Daniels can play on the interior as well as on the edge. Okwara, Kennard, and Jones had 15.5 sacks between themselves last year.
Slay is arguably the best corner in the game. Coleman is now the highest-paid slot corner in the league. Oruwariye was one of the biggest steals of the draft. Melvin can play some outside corner if Tabor struggles again. Ford and Agnew round out the group.
This group is going to have a ton of competition for the two starting spots. Harris was added in the third round to provide competition. Former third-round pick Tracy Walker is the odd man out in the group.
The same group as last year. Ryan Santoso was brought into camp as extra competition for Martin but Martin should win the job.
The lions added a slew of different pieces to help both the offense and the defense. Bevell should take the offense to a different level, especially the rushing attack. Kerryon Johnson should be able to put the team on his shoulders and become one of the top backs in the league. The Lions have certainly gotten better since last year but are also in one, if not the best division in football. The Bears are a super bowl contender who lost some pieces but should be in the playoffs again, the Packers made several additions on the defensive side of the ball, and the Vikings are going to be in the hunt as well. Patricia needs to gain the team’s trust as it was rumored they didn’t like the way he scheduled practices. If this season doesn’t go well, he could be on his way out. This ownership is not very patient as they fired Jim Caldwell after a 9-7 season just two years ago.
Season Prediction: 7-9 and miss the playoffs, enough talent but in the best division in football.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images