Yes, it is only May, but it is about that time to start thinking about the upcoming 2016 NFL season. In this town, that means Detroit Lions football.
The Lions had a rough beginning to the 2016 season, starting off 1-5 & just about out of the picture in the NFC. The team rallied to finish the season 7-9 & could have gone 9-7 if it hadn’t been for some end-of-game blunders that cost the team crucial victories that would have played a role in the NFC playoff picture (thank you Aaron Rodgers).
We have turned the page & are now into a new year of Lions football, and with it, comes big change, new opportunities and hopefully the chance for our beloved Honolulu blue & silver gladiators to get back to the NFL playoffs and possibly, win the division, thus gaining a home playoff game.
Our 2016 Detroit Lions season preview will break down each individual position throughout the roster on offense & defense, and where we think the team could be the strongest & the weakest across the board.
Here we go!
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford Has To Be Elite
Matthew Stafford has had a lot of leeway since becoming a Detroit Lion as the #1 overall pick in 2009. Stafford is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the Lions from a passing yards prospective, but the fact is simply that Stafford needs to win games. No doubt about it. This will be the first season that he doesn’t have #81 Calvin Johnson as his #1 target.
In past years, if Stafford was in trouble or if pressure was coming towards him, he could always shift a bit & just heave the ball down the field and Megatron could just outjump the coverage, make amazing catches, thus continuing to save Stafford from tough situations.
Don’t get us wrong, Stafford has shown some great moments, however. He has led some of the greatest offensive years in the history of the Detroit Lions, unfortunately, he hasn’t led the team to a playoff victory & the fans are still reminded that the team has only one playoff win since the year the Lions won the NFL championship (before there was a SuperBowl) in 1957.
It’s time for Stafford to either put up or shut up – meaning the Lions may need to think about life without Stafford & in the Lions organization, there is so much fear that Stafford may not be the guy that the organization will put all kinds of weapons around him to make sure he is comfortable.
Last year, the team drafted TE Eric Ebron out of North Carolina to help with Stafford having some security blankets at the tight end position with Brandon Pettigrew being very inconsistent at the tight end position over his career. Ebron had a nice season, but has so much to learn before he can be a top target for Stafford, but we will discuss him later.
Not having Calvin around for Stafford will make the offense a must see early on in the season. The team signed WR Marvin Jones from the Cincinnati Bengals during the main free agent signing period. Jones will act as a #2 receiver to Golden Tate, the man who is going to be expected to be the #1 receiver. Tate actually had more receptions last year than Johnson, but Tate has been seen more of a possession receiver and the type of guy who can get 15-20 yards a play, but mostly through slant routes & underneath plays that Tate can take the distance. Tate will need to be more of a vertical threat on a consistent basis.
Marvin Jones will be a solid threat, but more of a #2 receiver going into the season. Jeremy Kurley could prove to be a solid slot receiver, but as the franchise quarterback, the responsibility will be on Stafford to make these guys great.
From a record standpoint, as a Lions fan, anything less than Stafford leading the team to a 10-6 record & a trip to the NFL playoffs AND a first-round win should be considered a failure of a season. Stafford does have the talent, he has the arm strength to be great. In the later previews, we will look at the rookie draft picks in depth, but should Stafford stumble a bit, former Michigan Wolverines quarterback Jake Ruddock will serve as the backup this year & hopefully challenge Stafford in training camp.
The quarterback position is going to be under heavy scrutiny this year, but it is either put up or time for a quarterback search in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.