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 Grading the Detroit Lions: Quarter-season report card 
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Post Grading the Detroit Lions: Quarter-season report card
Grading the Detroit Lions: Quarter-season report card

Grading the Detroit Lions after the team's first four games:

Matthew Stafford's attempts are down and his efficiency is up. He's on pace to attempt 100 fewer passes this season, while competing a personal-best 64.4 percent of his throws. He also holds a healthy 7-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio with two of the picks coming on deflected throws.

Stafford has been extremely decisive, getting rid of the ball quicker than any other starting quarterback, but when he does take his shots, he's struggled with his downfield accuracy.

If he starts connecting with his open receivers downfield more consistently, Detroit's offense could reach its full potential.

Reggie Bush has been just what the doctor ordered. He's a dual-threat, capable of running it up the gut or beating a linebacker in coverage as a receiver out of the backfield. He's making tacklers miss in the open field and has already racked up 433 yards from scrimmage, despite missing one-and-a-half games.

Backup Joique Bell has proven to be a perfect complement to Bush, capable of carrying the load if the starter is banged up. Bell is averaging a more modest 3.2 yards per carry, but he's also an important receiving option, currently ranking third on the team with 18 receptions. Plus, like Bush, Bell has done an exceptional job breaking tackles and picking up yards after contact.

The only knock on the backs are a pair of poorly timed fumbles. Bush put one on the ground deep in Arizona territory against the Cardinals and Bell coughed it up late against Chicago while Detroit was trying to preserve a lead.

Calvin Johnson probably won't be breaking his own single-season yardage mark this season, but he continues to be the team's top receiving threat. He's leading the Lions in every major receiving category and already has four touchdowns after only notching just five scores in 2012.

Before breaking his forearm in a car accident, Nate Burleson provided the Lions with a reliable No. 2 option, catching at least six passes in the first three games and tallying 239 yards. With Burleson out, Kris Durham stepped up and caught three balls for 58 yards in the win over Chicago.

Tight Ends: C-
After an awful start to the season, Brandon Pettigrew got going last week, catching all seven passes thrown his way. The Lions will need similar production out of the veteran tight end the next few weeks to replace what Burleson brought to the offense.

The play of undrafted rookie Joseph Fauria has been a revelation. He's quickly emerged as one of the team's top red zone targets. Two of his four receptions have resulted in scores.

What more can be said about the offensive line? The group was one of the team's biggest question marks coming into the season, but Stafford has absorbed a league-low three sacks.

Beyond reliable pass protection, the unit has shown ability to control the line of scrimmage in the ground game, consistently opening up big holes for the running backs.

The front four might not have many sacks, but they've routinely generated pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has been dominant and rookie defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, with 2.5 sacks, is having the impact expected of a top-10 draft pick.

In addition, Willie Young has managed to carry his preseason success into the regular season. He's already matched last season's tackle tally and registered seven quarterback hits while recording one sack.

DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch share the team lead with 28 tackles. Levy has picked up his pass coverage, intercepting two passes and nearly snagging a third in the win over Chicago. Tulloch is adding value as a blitzer, recording two sacks.

Ashlee Palmer, who won the third job out of training camp, has been solid in limited playing time. He's recorded nine tackles, including two big stops behind the line of scrimmage on running backs Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte.

The safety play has been largely outstanding. Louis Delmas and Glover Quin have combined for 31 tackles, four interceptions and 11 pass defenses. On the outside, cornerback Chris Houston has given up some big gains, but he's also broken up six passes and has a pick.

Training camp addition Rashean Mathis has been one of the team's most underrated acquisitions, solidifying the other outside spot as second-round pick Darius Slay adjusts to the size and speed of NFL receivers. Despite only playing parts of three games, Mathis has 15 tackles and five pass breakups.

The play of nickelback Bill Bentley has been up and down. He's made some nice plays, but he's also struggled at times and had a critical pass interference penalty that cost the Lions in the team's only loss.

Rookie Sam Martin has mostly been superb. He currently ranks second in the NFL in net punting average and has also shown the ability to consistently put the ball out of the back of the end zone on kickoffs. The coverage units have also performed well, bailing Martin out on the rare mishit.

Kicker David Akers has been solid through four games. He's missed two of his 10 field goal attempts, one of which was blocked.

In the return game, Micheal Spurlock hasn't had many lanes until breaking free for a 57-yard punt return against the Bears last week. Beyond that one play, the return units have plenty of room for improvement. But hey, at least they're not turning the ball over.

Finally, penalties have been a major issue on special teams. The Lions have been flagged five times on returns and a few more times in coverage.

Reggie Bush is the type of weapon offensive coordinator Scott Linehan needed to create balance and take advantage of the steady stream of Cover-2 defenses opponents show the Lions. The team currently ranks sixth in yards and fourth in scoring.

On defense, Gunther Cunningham has his group generating droves of turnovers with consistent pressure. The Lions still don't blitz a lot, but when they have brought extra rushers this season, it's been more effective.

Among the defense's most impressive accomplishments is the team's success on third downs. Opponents have converted a league-low 21.3 percent of their attempts this year.

Finally, there's something to be said for Jim Schwartz's willingness to be more aggressive this season. He's attempted to go for it on a couple fourth-down calls, including a critical conversion against the Washington Redskins late in the fourth quarter which allowed Detroit to seal the victory.

Discipline continues to be a minor issue. The Lions are recording the sixth-most penalty yards per game, but it's only cost them once, on Bentley's pass interference against Arizona.

Lot's of A's - what say you?

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October 4th, 2013, 9:40 am
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Post Re: Grading the Detroit Lions: Quarter-season report card
Pretty Accurate. Id also like to say iM very pleasantly surprised about the OL. based on what we saw last year who Knew Reiff could come in and be Solid, especially with having already faced Peppers and Allen once. Sims doing good again, Dom not sucking quite as much as usual, Warford being an Early pleasant surprise, and not seeing too much dropoff when Either Hilliard or Fox have rotated at RT. Get a New Rocking Center in the 1st 3 rnds of the offseason and have them compete with Dom for next year, and this line could be solid for awhile (maybe an upgrade at RT and eventual successor for Sims).

October 4th, 2013, 2:55 pm
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Post Re: Grading the Detroit Lions: Quarter-season report card
I don't think I'd rate the linebackers that high. Levy is playing pretty good, and so is Tulloch. But I don't think Ashlee Palmer has been all that good. He is certainly a downgrade from Justin Durant. I don't think it's that big of a difference from the grade give. I'd rate them more of a B than an A-.

I also would have split the defensive backs. Give the safeties a solid A-, and the corners I'd rate at a C+ overall. Chris Houston has been steady, and keeps the grade up. Mathis is OK, but Slay and Bentley are not all that good so far. For Slay, that's to be expected. Bentley, on the other hand, has been disappointing.

I will not put on blinders when it comes to our QBs performances.

October 4th, 2013, 10:07 pm
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Post Re: Grading the Detroit Lions: Quarter-season report card
QB - I would agree that Stafford's decision making is much improved. He s also made some deadly accurate throws they just havent been that deep. He s made a big improvement. (B+/A-)

RB - Bush is the missing piece they needed perhaps moreso than a No 2 WR bc Bush is a pretty good WR also. Bell is playing well and in the mix also. Fumbles are a big deal but havent been backbreakers yet. Bush has really opened up a lot for the offense. (A)

TE - Pettigrew s role is diminishing as a receiver as it should be but he s been a big part of the blocking schemes. Scheffler seems to be declined and while Fauria is promising he is a one trick pony at this time. (D)

WR - Calvin obviously contributes a strong A. Burleson was making tough grabs in traffic despite not getting open and getting nothing on designed WR screens. Edwards hasnt made a big impact but is an eager blocker Durham s had a few good plays two weeks in a row now. (B)

OL - They ve held up really well, helped by the fact that Stafford gets it out of there so quick and that adding Bush means the defense no longer knows they can passrush without consequence. OL has been much better than I expected them to be. (B+)

K - Akers has had a few misses and all he does is placekick, kickoffs arent part of his game these days. (C-)
P - Martin has been a big big upgrade. His punts could be a little more consistent particularly on the road but he can boom them and is pretty good with placement. He may be one of the best kickoff specialists in the league as he hits it 8 yards deep in the corner of the end zone consistently. (A)
Return Game: Spurlock was Stegan Logan esque vs Arizona but he at least has made one big play on a kick return. Still shaking my head that the Lions allowed Trindon Holliday to make it past them in waivers last year when Logan was so awful. Spurlock is an upgrade but not by much. Add some penalites by this group and its not a good grade. (C-)
Kick Coverage: Martins kicks and punts are so good that it gives a real advantage to them. (B+)
ST overall: B-

DL: Ndamukong Suh has been the Lions best player in 2013. Better than Reggie and better than Calvin. His level of dominance inside is remarkable. Fairley started out strong but I think his shoulder has slowed him down. Still there arent many as good as him out there. Mosley has been better than expected inside. Bannann looked fine but the Lions brought back Fluellen perhaps bc of increased versatility. Even with Jason Jones out for the season the ends have done well. Young and Ansah are athletic clean up type players from the pressure created from the interior. Israel Idonije has been a cream puff and Devin Taylor is pretty green. Lions have to be looking for another DE and if they find one Idonije could be cut. Ansah is playng much better than KVB last year and looks like he ll rack up some big stats even before he becomes a star. Young has made some plays but he gets fooled a lot and doesnt have solid fundamentals. (A)

LB: Stephen Tulloch leads the way making downhil plays in the running game and flying all over the field in coverage. He has by far the best instincts and intelligence among the Lions linebackers. Levy has been the big play guy but its mostly a case of being in the right place at the right time, still he s been better vs the run than in past years and has made a couple big hits. Palmer isnt playing a whole lot bc of Lions being ahead and the shift to 3 WR sets but when he s played he s done fine. Backups McIntosh, Lewis, Whitehead dont appear to be ready to do anything other than ST. (B+)

DB: Mathis for the most part has been a life saver relieving a very erratic but talented Slay. Chris Houston is the top cover guy and though he hasnt been perfect he s played as expected. Bill Bentley's struggles in slot coverage have been overshadowed by Slay's problems. The Safeties have been outstanding. Both have good range and have made nice plays in coverage particulary Quinn's sideline INT when he was the lone safety deep over the middle. Quinn also can come up into the box and plays the run game downhill pretty well. Delmas when healthy as he s been is a weapon. CBs: C-, Safeties: A Overall: B

October 5th, 2013, 8:18 am
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