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 PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions 
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Post PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
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Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
Posted by Michael David Smith on July 15, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

In 2011, the Lions looked like one of the NFL’s up-and-coming teams, with young high draft picks like Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh leading them to the playoffs.

And then the Lions came back to earth with a thud in 2012.

The Lions’ 12-loss season in ’12 was a disaster on the field, not to mention off the field, where the Lions became the poster boys for bad behavior in the NFL. This offseason has been a little quieter in Detroit, but will that lead to a better season on the field?

Our six-person PFT panel voted the Lions the NFL’s No. 20 team this season. We explore the reasons for that ranking below.

Strengths.

It all starts with the passing game, where the highly paid Matthew Stafford and the even more highly paid Calvin Johnson are one of the best young combinations in football. Johnson, who broke the all-time single-season receiving yards record last year, is one of the most talented receivers in NFL history. Players with his size, athletic ability and sure hands just don’t come along very often, and there’s every reason to believe that Megatron will continue to be one of the league’s elite offensive players.

Based on pure talent, the Lions also have a defensive line that could make scouts drool, but it remains to be seen whether that talent will translate into great results. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley has said that he thinks he and Ndamukong Suh are the best pair of tackles in the NFL, although Suh wisely said he’d rather let his play do the talking on that one. Ziggy Ansah, the defensive end whom the Lions picked with the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft, also has freakish athletic talent, but he’s still new to the sport and may not be ready to be an every-down player as a rookie.

The secondary has been a weakness of the Lions, but they could be strong at safety if Louis Delmas can stay healthy and new arrival Glover Quin can play as well for Detroit as he did for Houston. Delmas and Quin have the ability to be one of the better safety combinations in the league.

Weaknesses.

The Lions’ offensive line struggled last season, and it remains to be seen whether things will get any better this year. At first blush, it would actually appear that the line has gotten worse: Starting left tackle Jeff Backus retired, starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus left to take a big contract with the Colts, and starting right guard Stephen Peterman was a cap casualty who ended up signing with the Jets. The best the Lions can hope for is that 2012 first-round pick Riley Reiff proves to be ready to fill Backus’s shoes and that some combination of holdovers Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox, rookie Larry Warford and veteran additions Jake Scott and Leroy Harris can take up the two spots on the right side of the line.

Special teams were a disaster for the Lions last year, and kick coverage was the biggest reason that the Lions quickly dropped to the bottom of the NFC North: Detroit’s 1-3 start included back-to-back losses to the Vikings and Titans in which the Lions gave up both a kickoff return touchdown and a punt return touchdown, making them the first team in NFL history to accomplish that dubious feat. If the Lions’ kick coverage had gotten the job done, there’s a good chance they would have started 3-1 instead of 1-3. Kick returner Stefan Logan also had a disastrous season. The special teams absolutely must get better this year.

Changes.

Reggie Bush is the highest-profile addition to the Lions, and he has the potential to be a game-changer. The Lions got just about nothing in the way of big plays from their running game last year: Mikel Leshoure, their leading rusher, never had a run of more than 16 yards all season. Bush is the kind of big-play threat who can change that, and he said after he signed with the Lions that he’s licking his chops from watching film of the way defenses leave running lanes open while focusing most of their attention on stopping Megatron. Bush could also have the kind of impact on the passing game that Jahvid Best had before concussions derailed him during the 2011 season. Best had 27 catches for 287 yards in six games in 2011 before his season came to an end.

An even more noteworthy change may be that Jason Hanson, the Lions kicker who set an all-time NFL record for the most games played with one team, has finally called it a career. He’s been replaced by David Akers, who struggled with accuracy last year with the 49ers but who has a stronger leg than Hanson. The Lions need Akers to find his accuracy, but if he can, he’ll help turn around their special teams.

Both of last year’s starting defensive ends, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril, are gone. Ansah will take over one of the starting spots, and the other is likely to be filled by Jason Jones, who was a backup for the Seahawks last season. The Lions have to hope that Ansah and Jones can fill in for Vanden Bosch and Avril without missing a beat.

Camp Battles.

The right side of the offensive line will be up in the air going into training camp. At right tackle, Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox will compete, but it’s unlikely that either will be as good as last year’s starter, Gosder Cherilus. At right guard, rookie Larry Warford is the favorite to start, but Jake Scott and Leroy Harris will be around if Warford isn’t ready yet.

At cornerback, Chris Houston will be one of the starters, but the other starting spot is wide open. The Lions would love it if second-round pick Darius Slay can prove in training camp that he’s ready to be an NFL starter from Day One of his pro career, but if Slay needs some time to develop, the starting job could go to any of last year’s three cornerback draft picks (Jonte Green, Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood) or veteran Ronald Bartell.

Prospects.

The Lions’ leadership simply can’t afford another 4-12 season. It would be hard to justify G.M. Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz keeping their jobs in that scenario. So improvement is important.

And improvement is also likely: This team has too much talent to be as bad this year as it was last year.

Still, the outlook for the Lions isn’t great. They look like the worst team in the NFC North, and a second consecutive last-place finish is likely.

http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/20 ... oit-lions/

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July 15th, 2013, 9:48 am
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
ok while I wont say too much in the article is wrong, but calling peterson leaving as a loss,....makes the author lose huge amounts of credibility. Peterson was THAT bad, that it doesnt matter who replaces him, it's a step up.

Claiming that Delmas and Quinn could be the best saftey tandem in the league takes more than just a little imagination as well.

All and all Mr. Smith.....im not impressed!

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July 15th, 2013, 1:39 pm
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
Another example of an "analyst" who knows NOTHING about the Lions. As Joe said, replacing Peterman with anyone is a good thing, and when it's Larry Warford, it's an improvement. Then he talks about the special teams, even though they got a new coordinator, added 2 ST aces, and didn't give up a return TD after that horrid run. Then says KVB needs to be replaced when he was all but a non-factor last year and Jason Jones is as good as Avril when you factor in his run defense. Overall a terrible assessment.

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July 15th, 2013, 2:38 pm
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
Ridiculous that the Bears are ranked higher than us. CFL coach. Aging defense that lost their main guy and their gurus (Lovie and Marinelli). Pathetic drafting. I guess being the Bears you're automatically given the benefit of the doubt.

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Preseason Power Rankings No. 18: Chicago Bears

Posted by Michael David Smith on July 16, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

After missing the playoffs in five of the last six seasons, the Bears showed Lovie Smith the door and decided to start a new era with a new head coach, Marc Trestman. Now it’s time to see how the team Trestman inherited fits with the system he plans to implement.

The good news for the Bears is that there’s abundant talent on both sides of the ball, and on special teams. There are a whole lot of Pro Bowl-caliber players on this roster.

The bad news is that the talent was assembled for a different coaching staff, and the Bears may have some growing pains under Trestman.

Our six-person PFT panel voted the Bears in the bottom half of the league, at No. 18. We explore the reasons below.

Strengths.

Say this for Lovie Smith: The guy knew how to build a good defense. Chicago’s defense was excellent last season, and although Smith and Brian Urlacher are gone, most of the personnel remains.

Cornerback Charles Tillman was one of the best defensive players in the NFL in 2012. He routinely took on the opposing team’s best wide receiver, and almost always got the better end of the matchup. It’s telling that in Calvin Johnson’s record-setting season with the Lions, two of his worst games came against the Bears, when Tillman led the way in holding Johnson to 34 and 72 yards. (Johnson averaged 133 yards a game in the other 14 games of the season.) With Tillman at cornerback, the Bears are in good shape against any wide receiver who comes their way.

The Bears’ defensive front seven is also strong. Julius Peppers is 33, but he doesn’t appear to be slowing down and is still one of the league’s top pass rushers. Chicago should be able to count on Peppers for double-digit sacks. Like Peppers, Lance Briggs will turn 33 this season but remains in fine form. Briggs started all 16 games and had another strong season in 2012.

Henry Melton has emerged as one of the league’s best defensive tackles, with six sacks last year and seven the year before. A former college running back who tips the scales at 300 pounds, Melton has a rare burst for a guy who’s big enough to play defensive tackle in the NFL, and at age 26 he’s in the prime of his career.

The Bears have a very good pair of offensive skill position players in wide receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Matt Forte, both of whom are among the best in the league at what they do. Marshall is a tough and physical receiver who has long been Jay Cutler’s favorite target, and Forte is versatile enough to be both the Bears’ No. 1 running back and their No. 2 receiver.

Weaknesses.

After Marshall, the Bears don’t have any proven commodities at wide receiver. They’d love to see last year’s second-round pick, Alshon Jeffery, become a solid No. 2 receiver. They’d also love to see Earl Bennett, who plays very well at times but also disappears at times, become a more consistent part of the passing game. But until someone steps up, No. 2 receiver has to be considered one of the Bears’ weaknesses.

Tight end has been a weakness for the Bears the last couple of years, when Kellen Davis averaged barely more than one catch a game. The arrival of Martellus Bennett should make Chicago better there, but Bennett is a long way from elite.

The Bears’ offensive line has long been a weakness, and the No. 1 priority of the offseason was shoring that up. That’s why guard Kyle Long was Chicago’s first-round draft pick, and why left tackle Jermon Bushrod was Chicago’s first priority in free agency. The biggest issue with the offensive line being a weakness has been that it has exposed Jay Cutler to injuries, and backup quarterback has been a major weakness for the Bears. That remains the case this year: If Cutler goes down, Josh McCown will step in, and that’s a significant drop-off.

Changes.

By far the biggest change is the arrival of head coach Marc Trestman, who’s been coaching the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League for the last five years. Trestman has plenty of experience on NFL coaching staffs, but he hasn’t been with an NFL team since he was on the Dolphins’ staff in 2004. It’s not often that NFL teams reach into the CFL ranks for their head coaches, and it will be fascinating to see whether Trestman — who has a reputation as an innovative offensive mind — comes in with fresh ideas that take NFL defenses off guard.

The changes to the coaching staff are also significant, particularly on defense, where Lovie Smith and his Tampa 2 disciples are giving way to Trestman’s new defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker. But Tucker and Trestman have both said that they plan to run very similar schemes to what the Bears have been running during Smith’s time with the team.

The retirement of longtime middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is a major change in the appearance of the defense, but it’s not a change that will have a huge effect on the field. Urlacher was once among the NFL’s best defensive players, but he was noticeably slower last season and didn’t have a lot left. The unfortunate thing about Urlacher’s departure is the way it happened: The Bears decided early in the offseason that they didn’t want him back, while Urlacher didn’t determine until later in the offseason that he was ready to walk away from the game. Urlacher was a great player who deserved the opportunity to say goodbye to the Bears on his own terms, and it was disappointing that it didn’t quite work out that way, as it did for Ray Lewis in Baltimore.

Camp Battles.

Replacing Urlacher at middle linebacker will fall to either D.J. Williams, the former Bronco signed in free agency, or rookie Jon Bostic, the second-round draft pick from Florida. Neither one of them is going to step right in and be the kind of player Urlacher was at his best, of course, but it’s easy to picture either player being an upgrade over the 2012 version of Urlacher.

As a first-round draft pick, Kyle Long is penciled in as a starting guard, but he’ll have to compete to earn the job. Derek Dennis, Edwin Williams and James Brown will all get an opportunity to beat out Long. Matt Slauson, who started all 16 games at guard each of the last three years for the Jets, is expected to be the other starting guard.

Prospects.

How well does Jay Cutler fit in Marc Trestman’s offense? And can Chicago’s offensive line keep Cutler healthy for 16 games? Those are the biggest questions facing the Bears this season.

Defensively, the Bears should look much like they looked last year, and that’s a very good sign. And the special teams, with punter Adam Podlesh, kicker Robbie Gould and returner Devin Hester, should be solid. There’s a lot of reason for optimism there.

But last year the strong defense and special teams weren’t enough to get the Bears into the playoffs thanks to a disappointing offense, and unless Trestman can make significant progress offensively, the Bears will probably fall just a bit short of the playoffs again this year.

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July 16th, 2013, 10:31 am
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
Lomas, im with you, but my bigger issue is, why are we distinclty the bottom of the division , when Minny is not as strong on paper as they were last year, and are only an injury to AP away from being the worst offense in the league...

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July 16th, 2013, 11:47 am
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
regularjoe12 wrote:
Lomas, im with you, but my bigger issue is, why are we distinclty the bottom of the division , when Minny is not as strong on paper as they were last year, and are only an injury to AP away from being the worst offense in the league...


Agreed...they have a solid defense and o-line, but the lack of a real quarterback will catch up to them sooner or later.

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July 16th, 2013, 1:22 pm
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
When it comes to an on paper assessment, the Lions will always be ranked low since history shows us there is a high probability of being correct. Until they show they can play higher, they won't get a whole lot of respect.

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July 17th, 2013, 4:38 pm
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
Errant nuances aside, I think the guy's number 20 ranking is pretty spot on.

That would mean the Lions are a mediocre-to-bad team, which seems like a fair assessment to me.

While I do think the Lions are better than last year's 4-12 record, I still wouldn't bet on them making the playoffs this season. The team has too many weaknesses/question marks.

The biggest factor either way will be Reggie Bush. I think the Lions were almost a completely different team with/without Best over the last two seasons (5-1 with him, 9-18 without him). If he can bring back -- or even exceed -- what Best brought to the table, the Lions will be a far better team. If he can't, Stafford will have to throw the ball 700 times again, and the Lions are going to lose a lot of games.


July 18th, 2013, 4:56 am
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
If this is the preseason power rankings then the Lions should be in the top 5. They dominate the preseason every year.


July 18th, 2013, 1:12 pm
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
Blueskies wrote:
Errant nuances aside, I think the guy's number 20 ranking is pretty spot on.

That would mean the Lions are a mediocre-to-bad team, which seems like a fair assessment to me.

While I do think the Lions are better than last year's 4-12 record, I still wouldn't bet on them making the playoffs this season. The team has too many weaknesses/question marks.

The biggest factor either way will be Reggie Bush. I think the Lions were almost a completely different team with/without Best over the last two seasons (5-1 with him, 9-18 without him). If he can bring back -- or even exceed -- what Best brought to the table, the Lions will be a far better team. If he can't, Stafford will have to throw the ball 700 times again, and the Lions are going to lose a lot of games.


I agree with you on most points, but I have to add, in order for this team to succeed, we're going to need good production out of LeShoure/Bell. It's not the home run threat ground game that wins games, it's the tough, grind it out 3.5 yards in a cloud of dust and high percentage first down conversions in the 4th Q that win games. We need to be able to control the clock, and we need a good, consistent ground game to do it.


July 18th, 2013, 2:03 pm
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
wjb21ndtown wrote:
Blueskies wrote:
Errant nuances aside, I think the guy's number 20 ranking is pretty spot on.

That would mean the Lions are a mediocre-to-bad team, which seems like a fair assessment to me.

While I do think the Lions are better than last year's 4-12 record, I still wouldn't bet on them making the playoffs this season. The team has too many weaknesses/question marks.

The biggest factor either way will be Reggie Bush. I think the Lions were almost a completely different team with/without Best over the last two seasons (5-1 with him, 9-18 without him). If he can bring back -- or even exceed -- what Best brought to the table, the Lions will be a far better team. If he can't, Stafford will have to throw the ball 700 times again, and the Lions are going to lose a lot of games.


I agree with you on most points, but I have to add, in order for this team to succeed, we're going to need good production out of LeShoure/Bell. It's not the home run threat ground game that wins games, it's the tough, grind it out 3.5 yards in a cloud of dust and high percentage first down conversions in the 4th Q that win games. We need to be able to control the clock, and we need a good, consistent ground game to do it.


Good point. I think that with LeShoure/Bell well-rested most of the time and Warford/Fox being improvements in the run blocking category, they'll both average 4-4.5 YPC for the season. And remember, we were 5-0 and beating the 49ers before Best went down. Who knows how we would've done with Best.

I have to ask you, WJB, do you think we run nickel primarily? Lots of good nickel options and it's highly unlikely that anyone is really good enough to play OLB if Durant wasn't good enough.

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July 18th, 2013, 2:53 pm
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
Shotty wrote:
wjb21ndtown wrote:
Blueskies wrote:
Errant nuances aside, I think the guy's number 20 ranking is pretty spot on.

That would mean the Lions are a mediocre-to-bad team, which seems like a fair assessment to me.

While I do think the Lions are better than last year's 4-12 record, I still wouldn't bet on them making the playoffs this season. The team has too many weaknesses/question marks.

The biggest factor either way will be Reggie Bush. I think the Lions were almost a completely different team with/without Best over the last two seasons (5-1 with him, 9-18 without him). If he can bring back -- or even exceed -- what Best brought to the table, the Lions will be a far better team. If he can't, Stafford will have to throw the ball 700 times again, and the Lions are going to lose a lot of games.


I agree with you on most points, but I have to add, in order for this team to succeed, we're going to need good production out of LeShoure/Bell. It's not the home run threat ground game that wins games, it's the tough, grind it out 3.5 yards in a cloud of dust and high percentage first down conversions in the 4th Q that win games. We need to be able to control the clock, and we need a good, consistent ground game to do it.


Good point. I think that with LeShoure/Bell well-rested most of the time and Warford/Fox being improvements in the run blocking category, they'll both average 4-4.5 YPC for the season. And remember, we were 5-0 and beating the 49ers before Best went down. Who knows how we would've done with Best.

I have to ask you, WJB, do you think we run nickel primarily? Lots of good nickel options and it's highly unlikely that anyone is really good enough to play OLB if Durant wasn't good enough.


I think it would make sense for us to run the nickel more. Our LBs suck IMO and we seem pretty deep with at least higher draft picks at CB. Someone better be able to play the nickel in that group!

I'd be happy if LeShoure/Bell can average a total of 3.5 yards, and consistently pick up 3rd and 2s... That's my biggest gripe... The inconsistency on 3rd and short.


July 18th, 2013, 3:01 pm
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Post Re: PFT's Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: Detroit Lions
I don't think they really have much choice in how much nickel they play. Teams with good runners would be smart to play more run formations to force the lions into playing 3 LBs on most downs. Luckily the league is pass happy, but teams like MIN and SF should have an easy time if the Dline changes don't help the holes made by the wide-9.


July 18th, 2013, 8:29 pm
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