Jim Caldwell and the Detroit Lions will be the first to admit that they still have work to do before becoming a team that can excel through the playoffs. Although the Lions handily beat the Buffalo Bills 23-0 on Thursday, there are still some issues that need to be addressed before the team feels comfortable moving forward. “We have a ways to go, we really do. I’m glad we have more practices prior to that time,” said Jim Caldwell after the final preseason game.
Here are the most notable problems after watching the Lions preseason.
1. Lack of a dominant opponent and the penalty problem
The Lions matched any opponent they played this preseason, but every single team they played are long shots for the playoffs. When a team playing a weak opponent is struggling with punts and turnovers, the coaches need to look at the game from a different perspective. Instead of asking the question, “How well did our starting cornerbacks play?” the Lions must be aware of “How well will our starting cornerbacks play against a team without a QB controversy?”
Preseason uniquely gives all considered players valuable playing time in game situations. So of course, teams have players in the game that will likely get cut a few days later. However, playing the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Buffalo Bills brings a different standard of football that will be over matched during the regular season.
The notable amount of penalties this preseason will hurt the Lions drastically if they are unable to address the problem moving forward. This preseason the Lions accumulated 41 penalties for 305 yards.
2. Inability to convert on third down
On offense the Lions also struggled with momentum. In their last and most dominant game against the Bills, the Lions still had 5 punts to bring their total to 19 punts in 4 games. Although the game was impressive for the Lions, they struggled to keep the ball moving on third down. One drive would be taken to the end zone, while the next would be a three and out.
Lions ended the preseason completing just 18 of 50 third down conversions. With penalty yards accumulating throughout the game, the Lions often found themselves in third and long situations. If they are able to create manageable third downs, they should see accuracy increase on third down conversions.
3. Subtle inconsistency in the secondary
The Lions’ defense is better this year than last, that’s a viable conclusion being drawn from the number of turnovers that have been forced by both the secondary and defensive line. This preseason the Lions accounted for 9 turnovers with 7 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries.
However, the Lions often found themselves giving up plays late in the game with time running out while also being inconsistent in turnovers. In the game against the Bills, the Lions had 3 interceptions and looked impressive, but the game before against the Jaguars, the Lions let at least 2 interceptions fall straight through their hands. In a competitive league with accurate quarterbacks, when given the opportunity to make game changing plays, the play needs to be executed 100% of the time. The secondary is definitely improved from last year, but although the thought might be unpopular, I still don’t think they have done enough to compete with the better teams in this league.
The Detroit Lions are in for an exciting season with great potential to make the playoffs and beyond. Although they have work to do, the Lions are dominating in other positions such as wide receiver. They have problems to work through, but most teams do. At this point we have to remember: the season is just beginning.