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 PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions 
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Post PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
Posted by Michael David Smith on July 18, 2012, 2:50 PM EDT

After a decade as the worst franchise in the NFL, the Lions took a big step forward in 2011, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1999. But after an offseason in which the Lions made headlines for the wrong reasons, will they take a step backward? Or could the Lions be poised to win a playoff game for the first time since 1991?

At No. 13 in our preseason power rankings, we see the Lions finishing just outside the postseason in 2012, perhaps taking a small step backward in a competitive NFC playoff race. The Lions undoubtedly have a wealth of young talent, but much of that young talent is very expensive, and that means they have some significant holes in the roster that they couldn’t afford to address in free agency.

STRENGTHS.

If Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are healthy for 16 games, the Lions’ passing game will be one of the best in the league. After being plagued by injuries in his first two NFL seasons, Stafford started 16 games and topped 5,000 yards last season. Stafford is only 24 years old and has plenty of time to to grow as a quarterback, but he’s already plenty good. And Johnson is the best wide receiver in the NFL, and such a threat to opposing secondaries that even when he’s double covered, his mere presence should leave plenty of openings for Stafford to find receivers Nate Burleson, Titus Young and rookie Ryan Broyles.

The defensive line has a great deal of talent and goes eight deep: Starting ends Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril (assuming he eventually signs his franchise tender) are backed up by solid pass rushers in Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson, and starting tackles Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams are backed up by the big and explosive Nick Fairley and Sammie Lee Hill. Suh needs to keep his head on straight on the field, and Fairley needs to keep his head on straight off the field, but when everyone is focused and ready to go, the Lions have the kind of depth on their defensive line that other teams can only dream of.

The Lions thought their running game could become a strength of the roster last year with a 1-2 punch of Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best, but Leshoure missed the season with a torn Achilles tendon and Best missed most of the season with concussions. Leshoure is suspended for the first two games of the season for two marijuana arrests, but if both players are healthy, and if Kevin Smith continues to play like he did when the Lions acquired him in the middle of last season, the running game might actually be a strength this year.

WEAKNESSES.

The secondary was exposed as a major weakness in Week 17 of the regular season and in the wild-card playoff loss to the Saints, when Matt Flynn and Drew Brees torched Detroit’s defensive backs. Losing cornerback Eric Wright, who started all 16 games last season but is now in Tampa Bay, won’t help this year. Getting safety Louis Delmas back and healthy after he missed the final five games of the regular season and was at less than full speed in the playoffs should help, but the secondary is a concern.

Special teams are also a major problem in Detroit. The 42-year-old Jason Hanson isn’t the kicker he was in his 20s and 30s. Neither Ben Graham nor Ryan Donahue, who will compete for the punting job, has a particularly strong leg, and the coverage units weren’t very good last year, either. Return man Stefan Logan failed to make any big plays last year.

A major question mark is the offensive line, which had its ups and downs last year, nearly getting Matthew Stafford killed in games against teams with strong defensive fronts (the Vikings sacked Stafford five times in each of their two NFC North meetings, and the 49ers sacked Stafford five times as well). Stafford’s health is so important to the Lions that they can’t afford to have their offensive line be a weakness. But it very well might be.

CHANGES.

The Lions headed into free agency with very little salary cap space, so they focused on maintaining the roster they had, not adding to it. In the case of defensive end Cliff Avril, they kept him with the franchise tag, and eventually he’s expected to sign and report. In the case of linebacker Stephen Tulloch, they kept him by signing him to a new contract. In the case of cornerback Eric Wright, they lost him to the Buccaneers, and that was probably the team’s biggest offseason loss. Where the Lions have to hope they made up for the loss of Wright is in the draft: Three different cornerbacks — third-round pick Dwight Bentley, fifth-round pick Chris Greenwood and sixth-round pick Jonte Green — were taken in the draft, and if one of them is good enough to start as a rookie, that would be a major plus. If all three of them are at least good enough to improve the nickel and dime packages, that would be great, too.

First-round draft pick Riley Reiff is the guy the Lions hope will eventually become their trusty starter at left tackle, although that probably won’t happen this year, as Jeff Backus, who has started every single game at left tackle since the Lions drafted him in 2001, is slated to return to the starting line up again. So if Reiff changes the face of the offensive line, it will probably be by playing a position other than left tackle.

CAMP BATTLES.

Chris Houston is expected to start at one of the cornerback spots, but after him there’s a lot of competition for the cornerback pecking order. Aaron Berry is probably favored to beat out Jacob Lacey, a free agent arrival from Indianapolis, for the other starting cornerback spot, and rookies Dwight Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green will all be competing for playing time in training camp as well.

Riley Reiff may unseat Gosder Cherilus as the starting right tackle, and moving one of them to guard to unseat starters Rob Sims or Stephen Peterman could be a possibility. All five of last year’s offensive line starters are back, but Reiff wasn’t drafted to be a backup.

A good training camp performance can allow someone to emerge as the No. 1 running back among Mikel Leshoure, Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith, although the three of them have different and complementary styles and can probably all find ways to fit into the offense. Based purely on talent, Leshoure is the one who looks most like a No. 1 running back, but his Achilles and his arrests make him a major question mark.

PROSPECTS.

It says a lot about the kind of roster that G.M. Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz have built that it will be a disappointment in Detroit if this is not a playoff team. During the Matt Millen years, the Lions never even had a .500 record, so reaching the point where the playoffs are a realistic annual expectation represents major progress for the Lions.

But the NFC North will be a tough division, with the Packers entering the season as the favorites and the Bears probably a step ahead of the Lions for one of the wild-card spots, and so the Lions may find themselves falling just short in a competitive conference. This is a much better roster than any team Millen ever assembled, and there’s real hope in Detroit, but this looks like a year in which the Lions will find themselves right around .500, and probably just missing out on the playoffs.

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

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July 19th, 2012, 11:53 am
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
I hope everybody underestimates us in the same way...

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July 19th, 2012, 12:10 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
I think the analysis could easily be correct. I am very concerned about our secondary, and I can see problems with our offensive line, as well. To me, we need to be able to run the ball in order to keep pressure off Stafford, and that comes back to the line, not to mention we are one big hit away from having running back problems. Who knows if Lashore can put the Bob Marley pipe down, and he hasn’t played a down yet, for all we know he sucks on more levels than just pot. If I am playing the Lions, take the run away, and then pin your ears back and go after Stafford. Offensively, the d’line is so aggressive; don’t be afraid to run the ball in passing situations as they are likely to run passed you. Further, keep your passing to 3 and 5 step drops to curb the rush, cause once you get the ball to the receiver, he could be running the length of the field. If Stafford stays healthy and hits his passes, and the pass rush counters our terrible secondary, then we make a quick trip to the playoffs again. Could our O’line and D’backs blossom into something unforeseen? Sure, but I don’t see it happening. We are competitive, but we are not a Championship team.

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July 19th, 2012, 12:51 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
I think most people are overlooking the reasons our secondary was so bad during the second half of the season. Injuries to the Dline, which hurt depth, which hurt consistent pass rush. Any team that can't get to the QB is going to expose the secondary, no matter how good the secondary is. Time is the weakness of any secondary. When Willie Young, Lojack, Nick and KVB are all slowed or out due to injury, we could have had Revis and Deion Sanders back there and receivers would eventually get open.

Our team is built to have an average secondary made better by a very strong Dline rotation. Cut that rotation by 2/3, and the plan doesn't work. Lojack went out week 4. Nick barely played. Suh was out for suspension. Young missed time with Hamstring. If the Dline stays healthy, the secondary will hold up ok. If injuries pop up again, people will talk about how bad the secondary is again.


July 19th, 2012, 1:10 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
I'm with you on this one DevilDog. I think the article is a pretty fair and accurate summary. I don't know that the Bears have done that much to consider them as clear favorites to finish second, but they have addressed areas of need quite well. While the Chicago offensive line is still something of a question mark, and their secondary is nothing to write home about, the exact same thing can be said of the Lions.

It will come down to maturity and discipline. The Lions have to cut down on the mental mistakes and also need to grow up on the field some. They are being focused on since they've gotten the "dirty team" rap glued to them. They need to overcome that by not being so damn stupid.

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July 19th, 2012, 1:17 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
I love that. I'm happy with us being the underdogs. It will drive this team to have the 12-4 season it is capable of next year.

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July 19th, 2012, 2:33 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
Pre Season ratings are worth less than the cyberspace they are printed on...or something.

However, I'll take this over the ratings we've gotten over the last decade.


July 19th, 2012, 2:37 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
You guys are funny, I don't know if 13 is an underdog - that would be some team in 20's. The Lions are ranked as a fringe playoff team along with other NFC teams like Dallas and Atlanta. Sounds about right to me.

Injuires will help flush some of this out as usual.

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July 19th, 2012, 2:41 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
Pablo wrote:
You guys are funny, I don't know if 13 is an underdog - that would be some team in 20's. The Lions are ranked as a fringe playoff team along with other NFC teams like Dallas and Atlanta. Sounds about right to me.

Injuires will help flush some of this out as usual.


Yep, the Lions were a fringe playoff team last year and there's no clear indication at this point that they'll be significantly improved in 2013.

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July 19th, 2012, 2:47 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
mwill2 wrote:
Pablo wrote:
You guys are funny, I don't know if 13 is an underdog - that would be some team in 20's. The Lions are ranked as a fringe playoff team along with other NFC teams like Dallas and Atlanta. Sounds about right to me.

Injuires will help flush some of this out as usual.


Yep, the Lions were a fringe playoff team last year and there's no clear indication at this point that they'll be significantly improved in 2013.


What about Tulloch and Durant having a full offseason? Fairley and Leshoure playing? More secondary depth? Reiff adding depth and possibly starting? People can use the excuse of our comeback wins getting us our 10-6 records last year, but the other team didn't do it for us. We held Dallas and Minnesota to 3 points in the last 30 minutes and the Panthers to 8 points. If our defense can play 4 quarters of football and the 3rd down conversions both improve, let alone cutting down on stupid penalties, this team is frightening when healthy. Everyone saw how our defense played against San Diego. They could do that every game when healthy and with time this offseason to understand the system more.

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July 19th, 2012, 3:20 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
Shotty wrote:
mwill2 wrote:
Pablo wrote:
You guys are funny, I don't know if 13 is an underdog - that would be some team in 20's. The Lions are ranked as a fringe playoff team along with other NFC teams like Dallas and Atlanta. Sounds about right to me.

Injuires will help flush some of this out as usual.


Yep, the Lions were a fringe playoff team last year and there's no clear indication at this point that they'll be significantly improved in 2013.


What about Tulloch and Durant having a full offseason? Fairley and Leshoure playing? More secondary depth? Reiff adding depth and possibly starting? People can use the excuse of our comeback wins getting us our 10-6 records last year, but the other team didn't do it for us. We held Dallas and Minnesota to 3 points in the last 30 minutes and the Panthers to 8 points. If our defense can play 4 quarters of football and the 3rd down conversions both improve, let alone cutting down on stupid penalties, this team is frightening when healthy. Everyone saw how our defense played against San Diego. They could do that every game when healthy and with time this offseason to understand the system more.


The best point you make here is an unknown - Reiff.

I don't see any reason to believe that Durant and Tulloch will be much better than they have been in the past. They've largely been the players that they were on their former respective teams, and they've been that sort of player for years. I see no reason to believe that they will "break out."

What if Leshoure gets more playing time? How well does he perform? Can he block (remember, it was the ability to block alone that caused Pinner to miss most of his first two seasons, or to at least receive limited playing time)? IMO Leshoure is a T.J. Duckett clone, at best. Nice to have, but he's no game breaker in my book.

What if Fairley plays? Is he significantly better than Corey Williams? Is he significantly better than SLH? That upgrade, even if it does pan out, is marginal at best. We already have a full rotation of good DTs.

IMO the BIGGEST improvement is going to be having somewhat of a true #2 WR this year. From most of the reports that I've seen Titus Young is the clear cut #2 WR right now, and Nate is being busted down to slot WR (proving my point that the dood is over-paid, but whatever), and the potential that Broyles has to be a good/great #4, and return punts and kicks.

That said, we still have very real concerns on our OL, and our running game is going to be a joke. I'll be shocked if we get a combined total of more than 1,600 rushing yards this year. Why is that such an issue? IMO Stafford is still not experienced enough to calmly and confidently beat the blitz. Most teams do it with their running game, really, really good Qbs can do it on their own (I'd argue only Brady, Rogers, Payton, and Breese do it well). Without a running game I think our offense will continue to sputter at times. It also means we won't be able to control the clock or close out games.


July 19th, 2012, 3:33 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
wjb21ndtown wrote:
Shotty wrote:
mwill2 wrote:
Pablo wrote:
You guys are funny, I don't know if 13 is an underdog - that would be some team in 20's. The Lions are ranked as a fringe playoff team along with other NFC teams like Dallas and Atlanta. Sounds about right to me.

Injuires will help flush some of this out as usual.


Yep, the Lions were a fringe playoff team last year and there's no clear indication at this point that they'll be significantly improved in 2013.


What about Tulloch and Durant having a full offseason? Fairley and Leshoure playing? More secondary depth? Reiff adding depth and possibly starting? People can use the excuse of our comeback wins getting us our 10-6 records last year, but the other team didn't do it for us. We held Dallas and Minnesota to 3 points in the last 30 minutes and the Panthers to 8 points. If our defense can play 4 quarters of football and the 3rd down conversions both improve, let alone cutting down on stupid penalties, this team is frightening when healthy. Everyone saw how our defense played against San Diego. They could do that every game when healthy and with time this offseason to understand the system more.


The best point you make here is an unknown - Reiff.

I don't see any reason to believe that Durant and Tulloch will be much better than they have been in the past. They've largely been the players that they were on their former respective teams, and they've been that sort of player for years. I see no reason to believe that they will "break out."

What if Leshoure gets more playing time? How well does he perform? Can he block (remember, it was the ability to block alone that caused Pinner to miss most of his first two seasons, or to at least receive limited playing time)? IMO Leshoure is a T.J. Duckett clone, at best. Nice to have, but he's no game breaker in my book.

What if Fairley plays? Is he significantly better than Corey Williams? Is he significantly better than SLH? That upgrade, even if it does pan out, is marginal at best. We already have a full rotation of good DTs.

IMO the BIGGEST improvement is going to be having somewhat of a true #2 WR this year. From most of the reports that I've seen Titus Young is the clear cut #2 WR right now, and Nate is being busted down to slot WR (proving my point that the dood is over-paid, but whatever), and the potential that Broyles has to be a good/great #4, and return punts and kicks.

That said, we still have very real concerns on our OL, and our running game is going to be a joke. I'll be shocked if we get a combined total of more than 1,600 rushing yards this year. Why is that such an issue? IMO Stafford is still not experienced enough to calmly and confidently beat the blitz. Most teams do it with their running game, really, really good Qbs can do it on their own (I'd argue only Brady, Rogers, Payton, and Breese do it well). Without a running game I think our offense will continue to sputter at times. It also means we won't be able to control the clock or close out games.


Kevin Smith was great when he came back next year but injured his ankle again. We will have 3 decent runningbacks, all capable of having good seasons. Assuming they stay healthy, I think Smith will have around 900 rushing yards, Best will have about 550 (and be used mainly on screens), and Leshoure will be our power back and have around 400 yards and 8 touchdowns, which is about 115 rushing yards per game, not counting reverses we run with our WRs. All 3 being healthy will greatly reduce the chances of all 3 being injured again. Did you see Fairley in the 1st quarter of the December game @ the Saints? He was dominating on almost every play until re-injuring his foot. Maybe Reiff and Backus split the snaps at LT? Either way I think the team, whether their record is better or worse, will be much better than last year.

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July 19th, 2012, 3:47 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
Shotty wrote:
Kevin Smith was great when he came back next year but injured his ankle again. We will have 3 decent runningbacks, all capable of having good seasons. Assuming they stay healthy, I think Smith will have around 900 rushing yards, Best will have about 550 (and be used mainly on screens), and Leshoure will be our power back and have around 400 yards and 8 touchdowns, which is about 115 rushing yards per game, not counting reverses we run with our WRs. All 3 being healthy will greatly reduce the chances of all 3 being injured again. Did you see Fairley in the 1st quarter of the December game @ the Saints? He was dominating on almost every play until re-injuring his foot. Maybe Reiff and Backus split the snaps at LT? Either way I think the team, whether their record is better or worse, will be much better than last year.
I think therein lies the rub..How can we assume any of the RBs will be healthy? All of them have a history of injury (though LeShoure having the least, I believe).

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July 19th, 2012, 3:52 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
TheRealWags wrote:
Shotty wrote:
Kevin Smith was great when he came back next year but injured his ankle again. We will have 3 decent runningbacks, all capable of having good seasons. Assuming they stay healthy, I think Smith will have around 900 rushing yards, Best will have about 550 (and be used mainly on screens), and Leshoure will be our power back and have around 400 yards and 8 touchdowns, which is about 115 rushing yards per game, not counting reverses we run with our WRs. All 3 being healthy will greatly reduce the chances of all 3 being injured again. Did you see Fairley in the 1st quarter of the December game @ the Saints? He was dominating on almost every play until re-injuring his foot. Maybe Reiff and Backus split the snaps at LT? Either way I think the team, whether their record is better or worse, will be much better than last year.
I think therein lies the rub..How can we assume any of the RBs will be healthy? All of them have a history of injury (though LeShoure having the least, I believe).


Jahvid hasn't been hit in 8 months, and when the season starts it'll be 10 months. Leshoure feels he's 100 percent. Kevin Smith has gotten past ankle issues, and he's one of the hardest working and humble guys on our team. All 3 will total at least 1,300 rushing yards. I just want to see how the carries are split.

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July 19th, 2012, 5:28 pm
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Post Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: Detroit Lions
Shotty wrote:
TheRealWags wrote:
Shotty wrote:
Kevin Smith was great when he came back next year but injured his ankle again. We will have 3 decent runningbacks, all capable of having good seasons. Assuming they stay healthy, I think Smith will have around 900 rushing yards, Best will have about 550 (and be used mainly on screens), and Leshoure will be our power back and have around 400 yards and 8 touchdowns, which is about 115 rushing yards per game, not counting reverses we run with our WRs. All 3 being healthy will greatly reduce the chances of all 3 being injured again. Did you see Fairley in the 1st quarter of the December game @ the Saints? He was dominating on almost every play until re-injuring his foot. Maybe Reiff and Backus split the snaps at LT? Either way I think the team, whether their record is better or worse, will be much better than last year.
I think therein lies the rub..How can we assume any of the RBs will be healthy? All of them have a history of injury (though LeShoure having the least, I believe).


Jahvid hasn't been hit in 8 months, and when the season starts it'll be 10 months. Leshoure feels he's 100 percent. Kevin Smith has gotten past ankle issues, and he's one of the hardest working and humble guys on our team. All 3 will total at least 1,300 rushing yards. I just want to see how the carries are split.


1,300 rushing yards is complete garbage.

You realize that last year the worst team in the league had 1,427 rushing yards, right? We were fourth from last with 1,523, and I don't think we're going to do much better this season. I think we will be within 50 yards of last years total, which is completely unacceptable.


July 19th, 2012, 5:50 pm
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