There is absolutely no surprise in this title. Everyone and their extended family knows that the Detroit Lions can score points with the best of them. Last year, the problem became that they could give them up with great proficiency as well.
Matthew Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards. Calvin Johnson made a run at Herman Moore’s single-season receiving record of 1,686 yards. Megatron’s total of 1,681 yards left him just six yards shy of becoming the Lions’ all-time leader in that category. Johnson led the NFL in yards, and his 16 touchdowns were second to only Rob Gronkowski’s freakish frame.
Nate Burleson was solid, Titus Young made big plays, Kevin Smith came off his couch and shredded expectations. Detroit’s offense was one of the most potent in the league, yet they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
The reason was their defense, or lack thereof. The Lions flat out couldn’t defend, especially in the postseason against the Saints. Detroit’s defense ranked in the bottom third of the league in both points allowed and yards allowed, and towards the end of the year, it became quite apparent that the Lions could be beaten through the air.
Chris Houston will be back as the Lions’ number one corner, but with Eric Wright departing for Tampa Bay and Aaron Berry being cut due to his two offseason arrests, there is a huge hole in an already lackluster secondary.
The Lions will likely look to one of the three corners they drafted this year as well as veteran Alphonso Smith to fill this hole. The Lions corners are anchored by Houston, and I believe
Smith will start opposite him in week one against St. Louis. Rookie third rounder Bill Bentley will likely be the nickel back, with fourth-year man Jacob Lacey also in the mix.
The gaping hole in the secondary will hopefully be patched up by the league’s best defensive line. With Ndamukong Suh anchoring the ‘Motown Modown’ again in 2012, expect a double team on every down, allowing pass rushing specialists Cliff Avril and Willie Young to run free.
With Suh and Corey Williams clogging the middle, expect a Franchise-tagged Avril to prove himself this season. This is a huge year for Cliff, who will need to match his 11 sack performance from a year ago to establish himself as an elite pass rusher in the NFL.
With Avril also in the spotlight, third-year defensive end Willie Young will fly under many teams’ radar. Young will likely play more and more as the season goes on, with Kyle Vanden Bosch entering his 12th NFL season. Young’s speed and athleticism has drawn much praise this offseason from GM Martin Mayhew, setting up a potential breakout year for “Fast Willie.”
One thing is certain: the Lions have prioritized offense. In the last six years, the Lions have drafted only two defensive players in the first round (Suh, Nick Fairley). This year, Detroit had two significant holes to fill: offensive line and corner. In the first round, they filled one with OT Riley Reiff. In the second round, they opted to take WR Ryan Broyles instead of a corner.
I think Broyles is a very talented player who will certainly make this team better, but do you see my point?
Mayhew wants points, and he will certainly get them. Whether the defense can hold the opposition long enough to get victories remains to be seen.
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