By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
Time to look in the basement of the NFC North. In there were find the Lions, with no witches and no wardrobes. Can Matt Patricia turn this franchise around?
entering the season
The Lions were under the 2nd year guidance of Matt Patricia, a Bill Belichick disciple. Rumour has it the pencil behind his ear has not changed or moved since being appointed.
The Lions went Tight End heavy during the offseason, signing Jesse James from Pittsburgh which ultimately turned out to be a poor investment, and drafting TJ Hockenson in the first round and Isaac Nauta in the the bargain basement 7th round of the 2019 draft.
Heading out of Ford Field was Ziggy Ansah who signed a 1 year deal with the Seahawks whilst Darrell Bevell came the other way from the Seahawks after being released shortly after the 2018 season to oversee offensive playcalling duties and did ok with the weapons at his disposal.
during the season
The Lions were actually fast starters going the first 3 games unbeaten including an opening weekend tie against the Cardinals followed up by wins against the Chargers and upsetting the Eagles away from home.
A much ridiculed NFL staple, the early bye week put pay to their season as they then went on to win just 1 of their remaining games of the season against the lowly Giants.
The main storyline was at the Quarterback position, where is was unearthed that Matthew Stafford played with a back injury, linked to a back fracture back from the 2018 season. From week 10, Jeff Driskel (5 games) and David Blough (3 games) were under center and the season spiraled from there, only scoring more than 20 points just once compared to 7/8 in the games with Stafford as their signal caller.
It wasn’t just the QB position which suffered as a result of injury. Running Back Kerryon Johnson continue his form of injury setbacks, just playing the 8 games this season. A patchup consisting of 6th round draft pick Ty Johnson, Seattle Seahawk castaway JD McKissic and Dallas Cowboy reject Bo Scarborough were employed from the back half of the season with Scarborough probably doing enough to earn a roster spot for next season. Other cameos at the running back position included Tra Carson, CJ Anderson and Paul Perkins. Enough said.
The running game numbers, something which OC Darrell Bevell is well known for were similar to the previous year and it’s fair to say that Bevell managed to get the most out of Stafford in his curtailed season. He was able to ensure that Stafford became the fastest player to reach 40,000 passing yards on a career.
In the passing game, Kenny Golladay probably had one of the most quiet 1190 yard season to be ever achieved and Marvin Jones was unable to replicate a decent 2018, finishing with just short of 800 yards on 62 receptions. talking of 62 receptions, that was the total that offseason FA signing Danny Amendola amassed on the season for 678 yards and 1 touchdown which came in week 1. He did have a passing touchdown in week 17 so a nice bookend season for him.
The defence was bottom 10 defence in terms of points allowed, turnovers, yards given up and 1st downs allowed.
A few gaps to fill for Detroit, but have the luxury of a pick #3 in the 2020 draft. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to see them trade back in a QB needy year with lots of QBs ripe for the picking.
Wide receiver will probably be addressed after Marvin Jones is getting up there in age. There are a few holes on defence that need to be filled including defensive tackle and a passrusher. They may take a shot with a late round running back too to help cover for Kerryon Johnson, who will unlikely be trusted with a full workload.
It bodes well for the Lions that the most notable names that could hit free agency are Graham Glasgow, the versatile offensive lineman and Danny Amendola, an ageing slot receiver. The Lions may look to extend one of their more reliable defensive pieces in Darius Slay, too.
Talking of staying, Matt Patricia and co. are seemingly here to stay after no changes were made personnel wise. In a division where wins will be hard to come by, the outlook isn’t as bright as some other teams out there but if Stafford is able to stay healthy in 2020 (ditto Kerryon Johnson), the Lions could surprise next season. Don’t expect January football though.