By Dennis Blossom
The 2015 Detroit Lions season was a comparison of triumph and adversity. Finishing 3rd in the in the NFC North with a 7-9 record, and a three game win streak, the Lions overcame their mishaps by firing offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, team president Tom Lewand, and GM Martin Mayhew, a pillar of the franchise since the 1990s. By making those changes, Detroit finished with a 6-2 record to end the season. What changes were made for that to happen besides the firings? The offense finally found its rhythm and the defense was playing much better than they had in the beginning of the season. It was something to build on coming into the 2016 season, and by hiring Rod Wood as team President, a close confidant of the Ford family, the Lions decided to make the pertinent improvements to be more competitive in the NFC North.
In order for the Lions to be even remotely competitive, they had to address some major needs on offense in a major way. First off, they need a wide receiver. With the sudden retirement of Calvin Johnson, this became an epic need for this team. He lead the team with 88 catches, 1,214 receiving yards, and 9 touchdowns. With the signings of Marvin Jones, Jeremy Kerley, and Anquan Boldin, the Lions will have a dynamic WR corps lead by Golden Tate. These signings along with the emergence of Eric Ebron give Matthew Stafford weapons within the passing game that he desperately needs. As far as Stafford goes, he didn’t have a bad season with 32 TDs and 4262 passing yards. However, with 15 INTs, that’s a stat he wants to improve on. The run game is decent led by second year player Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick , who in his own right is a good receiver as well as a runner. The offense was ranked 20th and some of that was due in part to turnovers and erratic decisions made by Stafford. Jim Bob Cooter, who was promoted after Lombardi’s firing made a difference as far as calling the right plays to help improve the Lions offensive output for the second half of the season.
The defense made some strides during the end of the season despite being ranked 18th, giving Darius Slay an extension will help out the secondary in a big way. Drafting A’shawn Robinson in the second round from Alabama fortifies the defensive tackle position. Being alongside Haloti Ngata, Robinson will learn from one of the best of in the game. Detroit’s biggest strength on defense is the safety position. Former New Orleans Saint Rafael Bush signed a one-year contract with the team. Combined with James Ihedigbo and Glover Quin, this unit is the Lions biggest strength. Teryl Austin, one of the NFL’s rising stars coordinator wise now has the tools needed to improve the defense somewhat. The Lions have taken the New England Patriots approach and drafted talent, instead of signing the sexy free agent name. It shows especially on defense.
Overall, the Lions have their work cut out for them. Jim Caldwell has a roster that is talented enough to win some games. With the Green Bay Packers dominance and the sudden emergence of the Minnesota Vikings, the Lions know that they must surpass one of these teams. To be a top caliber team in the division. Lions should get eight to ten wins, this is not impossible or ludicrous, especially with the acquisitions that they have made. All the Lions have to is limit the turnovers, play rock solid on defense, and start strong. Once that happens, you will be witnessing a wild card team that will give hope for Lions fans.