May 29, 2012; Allen Park, MI, USA; Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley (98) goes through pass rushing drills during organized team activities at Lions training facility. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Where Do the Detroit Lions Rank in the NFC North?

The Chicago Bears made headlines this off season for their free agent acquisition of Brandon Marshall. The Green Bay Packers did just enough this off season to still be considered the best team in the NFC North, and while not much is expected from the Minnesota Vikings, they have positioned themselves for improvement by drafting Matt Kalil to help protect their young quarterback Christian Ponder. So the question is, what have the Lions done to improve this off season?

The general consensuses from most analysts is that the Lions haven’t done enough this off season to maintain the status of being the number two team in the NFC North behind Green Bay, and that the Lions are too immature to compete with the Bears and Packers for a playoff birth. Analysts also believe that the reunion of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall will put the Bears in Super Bowl contention.

This is a lot of hype from analysts considering we haven’t even made it to training camp. Analysts are putting too much stock into the off the field issues by the Lions and the lack of improvement in free agency.

While their have been way to many off the field issues for the Lions, in reality these issues impact very little on the football field. As for the Lions free agency moves, the Lions signed Calvin Johnson to a seven year deal which all but guarantees Johnson playing for the Lions for his entire career. The Lions also added a solid nickle corner in Jacob Lacey, who has starting experience with the Colts. While Lacey may not be a big name, he fits exactly what the Lions need in the secondary for the unit to improve.

The Lions were also plagued by injuries in the secondary toward the end of last season which led to some of the worst performances from the unit we have seen. They addressed their lack of depth at the secondary by drafting three corners in the third, fifth, and sixth rounds of the 2012 NFL draft. As previously stated, these might not be big time moves, but they are moves that improved the team.

I guess analysts also forget that the Lions are returning their top two running backs in Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure from injury. With the return of Best and Leshoure paired with Kevin Smith, the Lions run game suddenly becomes dangerous. Best is a proven game changer with his ability to catch out of the back field as well as his electric speed that few defenses can contain. Smith has proven he can be a threat when he is healthy and he should have some big plays as well this season. Leshoure hasn’t done anything in the NFL yet, but he is out to prove he is the every down back the Lions are looking for.

While it’s understandable that the Lions haven’t gotten the respect they deserve this off season due to what has occurred off the field, the incidents should not overlook what the Lions can do on the field.

Their offense will be much better with the return of Best and Leshoure, not to mention they have given Matthew Stafford  another weapon in Ryan Broyles who is one of the most successful receivers in college football history. The Lions also drafted Riley Reiff, who was considered a top 10 pick.

The off the field issues may be a blessing in disguise for the Lions, because the have subtly improved their weaknesses and are some how flying under the ready of most fans and experts.

Tags: Detroit Lions NFC North

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