Detroit Lions: Five areas where consistency is key
For the Detroit Lions to make any kind of decent showing this season, it seems that these five areas are most critical where consistency is concerned.
Offensive Line: Matthew Stafford cannot spend one half or more of the season running for his life because the offensive line can’t get the job done protecting him. The starters on the line will be for the most part, a youthful bunch. Dominic Raiola remains for now at center and will be the longest tenured veteran on the line, but Martin Mayhew moved this week to address the overall lack of veteran leadership by signing former Titans’ starting offensive guard Leroy Harris. Days later he signed Jake Scott. Harris’ presence, along with Raiola, Scott and newly hired coaching intern Jeff Backus will certainly add much needed veteran guidance and leadership to the Lion cubs in the trenches.
Ground Game: Scott Linehan was becoming more predictable last season, especially where running the ball was concerned. Teams eventually got the idea that running the football in Honolulu Blue was not a realistic option due to the right side of that offensive line and running backs that for as good as they were at what they were being called on to do, simply couldn’t break a play wide open like Jahvid Best could. Until now. Reggie Reggie Bush has the capacity to give defenses fits, but once again his performance is largely going to be dependent upon the performance of the offensive line. Adding Mikel LeShoure and Joique Bell, both of whom could be murderous in the red zone, gives the Lions a threat that opposing teams will actually have to sit and think about for a while.
Kicking Game: Jason Hanson is gone, and whoever it is that takes his spot had bloody well better be Mr. Accurate and Mr. Reliable, for the Lions tend to leave too many games hanging on the foot of their kicker. David Akers gets the nod for now, but does not inspire tons of confidence based upon last season’s errant kicks and so things can change over the course of a summer with untested Havard Rugland working side by side with him. Sam Martin, the rookie out of Appalachian State and Blake Clingan, both competing for the vacant punter’s position, will need the kind of pinpoint accuracy and distance that will make this portion of the game as deadly as a Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson pass. Without consistent accuracy and distance in kicking and punting, the Lions will struggle mightily.
Secondary: Louis Delmas is back and has newly acquired sidekick Glover Quin to help make one of the best deep secondaries in the business. But it is all potential, for Delmas has to play in a manner that does not relinquish his attacking attitude, but at the same time protects his knees from damage. Quin has to prove, like everyone else, that careers do not come to Detroit to die. CB Chris Houston locks down one side while the fight is on for the other corner slot. Whoever the starters are, their play will in large part aid the defensive line in their jobs. Poor secondary play equals more pressure on a very young, raw and inexperienced defensive line, especially on the ends and that is something the Lions cannot even begin to remotely accept.
The Thinkers: Matthew Stafford needs to show he can be more consistent than last season and that his expanded and improved arsenal can be put to full use in each game. He has to calmly take control emotionally of each game at critical times as he famously did in the last seconds of that gritty game against Cleveland a few seasons ago. Jim Schwartz needs to prove that he can manage a game without irrational temper flares obscuring his ability to make proper decisions. The staff from Gunther Cunningham to Scott Linehan through the assistants must all be more precise and less predictable, something that was obviously lacking last season.
It’s a tall order, but if these Lions consistently show up each week, a daunting schedule can be made less intimidating, you will hear jaws clanging on the ground from Green Bay to Minneapolis to Chicago and the fans in Detroit might actually see fruition of the potential we all know inhabits Allen Park and Ford Field.
Earl Richmond is a long-suffering Detroit Lions fan and staff writer for TPF. He can be reached at ERichmond@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com