Last season the Lions proved to everyone in the NFL that they can compete with anyone. The Lions have arguably the best quarterback-receiver tandem in the NFL in Matthew Stafford and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. If the Lions hope to make a deep playoff run then they will have to improve in these five areas:
1. Special Teams - 2010 Stefan Logan was electric in 2010. He was the only player in the NFL to be ranked in the top five in punt return and kick return average, he gave the Lions great field position, and he was a much needed spark for the Lions’ offense who was missing their franchise quarterback due to injury. In 2011 however, he was almost nonexistent. This is no doubt a result of the new NFL kick-off rule, which not only limited the number of returns for Logan, but made his returns much more difficult because he was often returning from his own end zone.
Adding another dimension to the Lions is essential, just look at the impact Devin Hester has on the Bears, or Patrick Peterson on the Cardinals, or DeSean Jackson on the Eagles. Special teams is one of the three phases in football that often gets overlooked. It can make a bad team good or a good team great.
This is a make or break year for Logan. The Lions drafted Ryan Broyles in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft and will more then likely have him split returns with Logan. If Logan can return to form in 2012 the Lions will be even more explosive.
2. Run Defense - The Lions pass rush is outstanding. If Fairley (who is impressing coaches) can live up to his potential and clean up his act off the field, then I have no doubt the Lions can lead the NFL in sacks in 2012.
The problem with the Lions’ style of pass rush is that it often hurts them when defending the run. Detroit plays a wide nine defense, meaning they line up their defensive ends in the nine gap, which is usually outside of the tight end. This strategy allows the Lions’ defensive ends to bull rush the quarterback and is very effective.
The flaw to the wide nine technique is that it allows wider gaps for running backs to find and this often results in big gains. The San Fransisco 49ers had the wide nine figured out when they played Detroit in week six and they ran all over the Lions by running counters with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter.
If the Lions’ want to continue running the wide nine they need to sure up their tackling or they are going to run into the same problems in 2012. More information on the wide nine technique and a brief video click here.