The bye week is a perfect time to stop and make some evaluations. I will go position by position, starting with the offense, and grade each group as a unit. You will have to check back for the defensive and special teams grades but in the meantime you can leave your own grades or evaluations in the comment section.
Quarterback: No Lions fan was looking forward to seeing Shaun Hill, much less Drew Stanton, on the field in meaningful situations. Julius Peppers’ crushing hit to Matthew Stafford sent the Lions offense into plan B in the first half of the first game of the season. Not a recipe for success for a franchise that hasn’t had much success to begin with. The quarterback spot went from a position that was supposed to help the Lions win games to a position that needed to not be the reason they lost games. Shaun Hill has proven himself to be an above average backup but the Lions don’t have the luxury of only needing a game manager under center. That isn’t Hill’s fault and he has done as much or more than should be expected of him. Grade: B-
Running Back: Jahvid Best is obviously an exciting young player but his effectiveness catching the ball out of the backfield has overshadowed or compensated for his lack of effectiveness in running plays. Best is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry while the league average tends to come in around 4.0 every year. It will take a significant increase in production for Best to become the Lions first 1,000 yard rusher since Kevin Jones did it in 2004. Maurice Morris ran for just ten yards on his 11 carries early in the season while Kevin Smith has been more effective since replacing Morris as the number two back. Jerome Felton remains somewhat of a wild card and a potential option in short yardage situations. The team has not run the ball as well on the road as they have in their two home games although some of that can be attributed to inconsistent line play. Since the grade is based on the overall play of the position rather than simply the running game it will get a bump up due to Best’s pass catching ability, it was a big reason the Lions made a game out of their matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. Grade: C+
Wide Receiver: Fans were clamoring for the Lions to get the ball into Calvin Johnson’s hands. His catch totals haven’t changed in the last three games but the results certainly have as he has scored four of his five touchdowns in those games. Nate Burleson has missed some games due to injury but has been a productive part of the offense when in the lineup. Despite the games missed he still ranks second among Lions wide receivers in catches and is a much more dependable option than Bryant Johnson. The group of wide receiver’s biggest downfall is the drop-off in production from Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson. It is a good thing the Lions have other pass catching options because this unit is really a two-deep group, fortunately the guys at the top are pretty good. Grade: C+
Tight End: Not many would have predicted that the Lions’ leading receiver at the by week would be Brandon Pettigrew. His 33 receptions leads the team by two over Jahvid Best’s 31. Throw in 26 more catches from Tony Scheffler and it is obvious that the tight end position is an important part of the Lions offense. Pettigrew has been much more than a dump-off option. He has averaged 10.2 yards per catch, a number similar to what the wide receivers other than Calvin Johnson have attained. Scheffler and Pettigrew have only scored one touchdown each but they have consistently picked up key first downs to keep drives alive and extend opportunities for the team’s play-makers to find the end zone. Displaying surer hands might lead me to put this group in the “A” range but they deserve a solid rating nonetheless. Grade: B+
Offensive Line: Matthew Stafford was injured because of a sack, pressure lead to Shaun Hill’s injury, and the Lions ground game ranks second to last in terms of yards per carry. The Lions’ offensive line has been maligned for some time and the facts I just mentioned are making it hard for this unit to gain any positive reviews. The frustrating aspect is that is seems that the problems are caused by individual mistakes that randomly pop up rather than a lack of talent. Each member of the line has had their moments of solid play and their down moments. The addition of Rob Sims has solidified the left guard spot so hopefully the offensive line can build some consistency as individuals and as a unit. They need to get to the point where they can keep a quarterback, specifically Matthew Stafford, healthy and open up more room for their running backs to run. Grade: C-
Note: All photos courtesy of YardBarker.com