The Lions are facing an uphill battle this year. That much is apparent as the preseason concludes. They went 1-3, but more worrisome than the record was the overall poor play of the team, specifically on defense. It was so bad that longtime Lions beat writer, Dave Birkett, who usually is stoic in his writing, called it the worst preseason he had ever seen.
The first sack of the preseason wasn’t recorded until the 3rd week. Consistently opposing run games gashed the Lions, and outside Darius Slay the pass coverage was lackluster as well. Neither Teez Tabor or Nevin Lawson did anything to secure that starting spot opposite Slay. I have a hard time believing that A’Shawn Robinson or Anthony Zettel will be cut, but they are playing surprisingly deep into the preseason, including the 4th game.
The oft-injured franchise tagged Ziggy Ansah did not play too much this preseason either, but I expect him offenses to double team him consistently and plan on winning their 1v1 battles across the rest of the line. Spoiler alert, this will likely work. It’s not so much the lack of sacks that are concerning, but the lack of QB pressures. No matter who is in your secondary, if the Lions can’t put pressure on Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins, they will lose all four of the games they play against the Packers and Vikings.
There’s always the chance that the defense will be vastly improved come week one because Patricia wasn’t showing his best stuff for all the league to see. The caveat to this is that the offenses weren’t exactly scheming up either. There’s major potential here for the Lions to have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
On offense, the run game seems improved, but only somewhat. In the few drives that the starting offense got, they still got behind the sticks and relied on Stafford to bail them out on 3rd & long. A running back by committee approach was taken in the preseason, but I hope Kerryon Johnson is used as a feature back come week 1. TJ Lang also didn’t take a snap this preseason, he should be ready week one. Here’s hoping the o-line stays healthy. GM Bob Quinn has sunk way too much money into it for them to be even mediocre. This needs to be a top-10 unit.
With all that said, the year of Bob Quinn begins. He has his coach, has had 3 drafts, and 3 free agency periods. The NFC is a ridiculously competitive conference this year, so for a team like the Lions, I find it unreasonable to demand a playoff appearance out of Matt Patricia in his first year as head coach.
Here’s what Lions fans should demand.
- A consistent running game that picks up 3 & short, and a running back who breaks 100 yards, so ESPN doesn’t show us that god awful graphic of a breaking down car again.
- 2-3 come from behind wins from Stafford. He gets paid a ton of money, but the team as a whole generally sucks around him. $27 million should buy a couple wins that screw up draft position, right?
- Injury-free seasons from T.J. Lang and Ziggy Ansah. I’m well aware that ‘demanding’ an injury-free season is ridiculous, but I’m coming at this from an angle of that the Lions may have to consider moving on from both players in 2019 if they can’t consistently be on the field. The best ability is availability.
- Some sort of sign that Matt Patricia can be a good game-manager and has a defensive scheme that works. Last year the Patriots had one of the worst defenses in the league, and much like the Lions had a pretty awful front 7. There will be growing pains, and mistakes will happen. Here’s hoping mistakes don’t happen twice.
So here’s to 2018, Lions fans. Unfortunately, I think that we’re staring 8-8 straight in the face.