There is much uncertainty surrounding the future of the Detroit Lions and 2015 might have led to some of its demise. The Lions have decided to keep head coach Jim Caldwell, but wide receiver Calvin Johnson is mulling retirement and there are several other players that might be on their way out of Detroit. Will this uncertainty force them into the basement of the NFC or will it help them band together after a 7-9 season?
Strengths and Weaknesses
Quarterback, special teams
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford had the highest completion percentage of his career in 2015 at 67.2 percent, and he was efficient for the Lions’ offense with 4,262 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and two rushing touchdowns. He also had a 62.6 quarterback rating (QBR), which is also the highest of his career. If Calvin Johnson decides to retire, the Lions still have Golden Tate, but will need to add a No. 1 wideout through free agency and the draft to help the offense. The addition of Chicago Bears free agent wideout Alshon Jeffery would be a big signing for the Lions even if Johnson returns.
Special Teams: Matt Prater only missed two field goals in 2015 (22 for 24) and punter Sam Martin averaged 46.0 yards per punt, so they are set in the kicking game. Running back Ameer Abdullah did not turn out to be much of a threat in the running game during his rookie season but he was a threat as a kick returner. He averaged 29.1 yards per kick return and had a long of 104 yards in 2015.
Running back, offensive line, defense
Running Back: Abdullah was the leading rusher this season but only carried the ball 143 times for 597 yards and two touchdowns, and was ineffective in the Lions’ offense. Joique Bell and Theo Reddick didn’t do much either, although Reddick was a threat in the passing game with 80 receptions for 697 yards and three touchdowns. Another point of emphasis in the draft and free agency should be running back.
Offensive Line: The Lions offensive line gave up 44 sacks to opposing defenses and, if anything, they need to add depth to the position. When Stafford is given time in the pocket, he can be one of the most dangerous passers in the NFL, and it starts with protection up front. Bolstering the offensive line would also help the rushing attack, but the running backs also need to do their part as well.
Defense: The term is that defense wins championships, and the Lions do not have a defense that is a threat to anyone. While they were able to go 1-1 against the Green Bay Packers — a Hail Mary from 2-0 — they often struggled to stop first-tier quarterback like Peyton Manning in 2015. On the other hand, they were able to hold the Seahawks’ offense in check in a Week 3 13-10 loss in Seattle. The defense had a respectable 43 sacks this season, but they need to figure out a better way to handle great quarterbacks. It would be best if they added some run-stuffers in the draft and pick up a couple of secondary players in free agency because there are several available this offseason.
Players to Re-Sign:
SS Isa Abdul-Quddus
SS James Ihedigbo
DL Haloti Ngata
WR Lance Moore
C Manuel Ramirez
2016 Free Agent Targets ($18.4 million projected cap space)
WR Alshon Jeffery
RB Matt Forte
RB James Starks
T Russell Okung
OL Alex Mack
DL Muhammad Wilkerson
DE Greg Hardy
CB Prince Amukamara
S Reggie Nelson
2016 NFL Draft First Round Targets (No. 16 pick)
DL Jarran Reed (Alabama)
OT Taylor Decker (Ohio State)
WR Josh Doctson (TCU)
CB Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)
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