2_Detroit Lions1

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NFC NORTH DETROIT 2014 STRENGTHS: • Pass offense, strong offensive line, rush defense Lions Offense DREW HALLOWELL/GETTY IMAGES SPORT During the Jim Schwartz era, the Detroit Lions were consistently a very talented team that shot themselves in the foot with bad turnovers, penalties, and undisciplined play in general. In 2013, the Lions tied for second in the NFL with 34 turnovers and tied for eighth with 110 penalties. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw 19 interceptions, including 11 interceptions in a five-game stretch in the second half of the season. These mistakes were the biggest reason Detroit collapsed from a 6-3 start to a 7-9 finish. Part of the problem was that the offense was too reliant on superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson. “Megatron” is widely recognized as the best receiver in the game but the Lions failed to find good alternatives in the passing game. Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles were mostly injured or ineffective. Kris Durham was forced into the role of starting wide receiver and struggled, catching just 45 percent of the passes thrown his way. To address this weakness, Detroit acquired former Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate in the offseason. Tate is not an ideal top option but should thrive as the second option after Johnson. Detroit also selected tight end Eric Ebron with the 10th overall 2014 WEAKNESSES: • Prone to turnovers and penalties, lack of pass rush LIONS selection in the 2014 NFL draft and brought back veteran tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Expect the Lions to use plenty of two tight end sets as they look to use both Ebron and Pettigrew. Detroit also has plenty of talent in the backfield, with Joique Bell emerging as a dual threat alongside Reggie Bush. Bell and Bush are both very capable receivers and rushers out of the backfield. They should help give the Lions an offense with a myriad of passing weapons, but their rushing contributions were mediocre overall, with the team averaging just 4.0 yards per rush. With a revamped offense, the most important task for new head coach Jim Caldwell will be to work on Stafford’s mechanics and make him a more disciplined, consistent quarterback. All the pieces are in place for Detroit to have an explosive and successful offense. They just need to develop some consistency. Offensive Player to Watch There are times when Stafford looks every bit like a quarterback who lives up to his former first overall pick draft status. Stafford has been one of the league leaders in passing yardage for three straight years and passed for 41 touchdowns in 2011. Last season, Stafford had a 15-to-4 touchdown-interception ratio through seven games. The potential is definitely there for Stafford to be one of the league’s top quarterbacks. The problem is inconsistency and a tendency to throw with poor mechanics. Stafford threw four interceptions in a 24-21 loss to Tampa Bay and three interceptions in an 18-16 loss to Baltimore. Detroit’s season went south at the same time Stafford struggled. Now entering his age 26 season, the onus is on Stafford to show that he can be both a prolific downfield passer and a disciplined and consistent quarterback. Lions Defense Perhaps the biggest reason Detroit fired Schwartz is because the defense has dealt with many of the same disciplinary issues Calvin Johnson


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