Yesterday I alluded to my participation in Real Detroit Weekly’s Lions season preview. Now that the Lions season is over I thought it would be good to take a look back and see what I said prior to week one and how it turned out in reality. Real Detroit Weekly’s questions are in bold and my answers follow in the block-quotes below:
2011 Lions record: 6-10
Bingo. I start off a perfect one-for-one.
I can’t toot my own horn too much, however. If you told me that Matthew Stafford would only finish one game this season and play in parts of two others then I surely would have predicted a worse record. I picked the 6-10 mark with the understanding that Matthew Stafford would be leading the offense, not Shuan Hill and certainly not Drew Stanton.
Will they make playoffs?
The Lions will fall short of the playoffs this year but give us some signs a playoff appearance is not too far off.
OK, this was a softball. I’m two-for-two but admittedly sheepish about counting this one. I seriously considered answering this with my best Drew Rosenhaus impression but thought I should be a bit more professional than that. Let’s just move on…
What are the team’s strengths?
The offense is obviously ahead of the defense. The running game should be much improved and the passing game has a chance to be dynamic.
I was sort of hit-and-miss on this one. It was a no-brainer to say that the offense was ahead of the defense and the passing game was quite good even without Matthew Stafford. The loss of their starting quarterback didn’t keep Calvin Johnson from making his first career Pro Bowl. On the other hand, the running game was a concern for most of the season. The Lions averaged just over 100 yards per game on the ground with a 4.0 yards per carry average, nearly identical to their 2009 ground output.
What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
The secondary really concerns me. The Lions will have a lot of trouble stopping opposing passing attacks due to an overall lack of talent and depth. The level of talent and depth take another hit if Louis Delmas’ groin injury lingers.
Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith almost made me eat my words early in the season but Smith in particular couldn’t hold it together before ending the season injured. The Lions secondary was completely turned over by the end of the season and remains one of the team’s top concerns entering the off-season. They benefited from a great pass rush but couldn’t handle a quick passing game that neutralized the defensive line’s effectiveness.
Will there be any local media blackouts this season?
Despite the depressed local economy and my prediction of another losing season, I will go out on a limb and say that the Lions will sell out all their games this year. Football is king in the area and the Lions have enough going for them that people will want to see.
I probably would have been right if the Washington Redskins hadn’t come to town on Halloween. The Lions sold out every other home game on their schedule and the fans did a great job of supporting this team throughout the year.
Who are the Lions’ Next Big Things?
Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best are all young dynamic talents that could give Lions fans a lot to cheer about for a number of years. Best has me most excited because of his game changing speed. It doesn’t take long to see his talents on display.
Stafford got hurt again, Calvin showed us he truly is an elite receiver and Jahvid Best was on an early pace to make me a genius and then the turf toes set in. A big miss was not mentioning Ndamukong Suh. You can be sure I’ll never forget about him again.
At what position could they stand to improve the most?
Cornerback. The current group is essentially a collection of journeymen.
Yep. Next Question.
Who should be quarterbacking the team?
There is no debate that this is Matthew Stafford’s team. The days of quarterback controversies are over in Detroit.
Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton did an admirable job of filling the void left by Stafford’s injuries but there still isn’t any sort of a quarterback controversy. The Lions won the only full game Stafford played and were leading in the other two at the time of his departure. The Lions have capable backups for a reason and that reason is to fill in when necessary, not to compete for the starting job.
What do you think of head coach Jim Schwartz?
I love the way Jim Schwartz approaches his job. His demeanor is amazingly calm and often gives very candid responses to interview questions rather than resorting to say-nothing answers that we hear from so many other athletes and coaches. He exudes a sense of “cool” and comes across as a down-to-earth guy.
This was the question and answer that I found most interesting to read now that we have the benefit of some hindsight. There was a point in the season when many fans were angry that Schwartz wouldn’t blast the league or officials for calls like the CJ catch (or not) in week one and the Suh personal fouls. Schwartz remained calm and determined to stay the course that he had set. It sure looks like the right thing to do now that he and his team have ended with so much positivity abounding.
How do the Lions make you feel? (Sound off!)
The Lions make me feel hopeful. It finally feels like there is some sort of plan the organization is trying to follow. It seems that Martin Mayhew gets more in return than he gives up in every deal he makes and the Lions’ draft record has completely turned around from the Millen-era. They have not turned that into wins on the field as of yet but the fact that it feels like they are heading in the right direction makes me a little more patient.
Hopeful is still a pretty good adjective but something with a little more confidence behind it would probably be more appropriate at this point. This season’s conclusion provided tangible evidence of the team’s progress in the form of wins. The challenge going forward will be continuing to draft well without the benefit of the first or second choice. It becomes a lot more of a crapshoot picking 13th. Mayhew and Schwartz have been the right guys to get us to this point but need to prove they are the guys to get us to the playoffs.