The Detroit Lions will have to string together multiple victories before they can truly be considered contenders once again, however, Sunday brings an opportunity to get back to .500 as the team heads to Jacksonville. The Lions have been unable to build off of the success from their first two victories, as each was followed by a tough loss. The team can’t afford another step backward this week against the Jaguars if they have any aspirations of remaining relevant in the second half of the season.
Blaine Gabbert vs. Lion Secondary
Detroit’s defense has steadily improved throughout the season, but with the exception of Michael Vick, they continue to make opposing quarterbacks appear to have Joe Montana type efficiency. Sub-par quarterbacks such as Alex Smith, Russel Wilson, and Jake Locker have had stellar outings against Detroit, and the Lions will likely be missing key parts from their secondary this week. Louis Delmas re-injured his surgically repaired knee in the 3rd quarter against Seattle, and although Ricardo Silva did an adequate job in his stead, the absence of Delmas will be felt on Sunday. With Bill Bentley sidelined from a concussion, fellow rookie cornerback Jonte Green has taken advantage of the opportunity. Green may not be as talented as Bentley, but he has looked better in single coverage, specifically defending against deep passes.
Blaine Gabbert isn’t fully healthy, and won’t have the luxury of Maurice Jones-Drew behind him on Sunday. The Jaguar offense will rely heavily on the 2nd year quarterback to make plays down the field. Jacksonville also lacks explosiveness at wide receiver, so Detroit will likely show a lot of single high cover-1 and cover-3 looks, along with man coverage as they bring extra blitzes to disrupt the quarterback. The lack of playmakers on the perimeter, combined with an improving pass rush, should force Gabbert into some poor decisions, and provide the Lions with great opportunities.
Rashean Mathis and Aaron Ross vs. Calvin Johnson and Titus Young
Titus Young finally made the impact that Lions fans had been waiting for against the Seahawks. All season teams have been taking away Calvin Johnson, and daring somebody else to beat them. Titus finally did it, and will need to do it again. Mathis and Ross are quality cover corners, but neither will be matched up in man against Johnson. If Detroit fails to run the football successfully, the jaguars will employ 2 deep safeties, likely bracketing Johnson from underneath and taking away the big play. This will often leave Young in single coverage on the outside with either Mathis or Ross. Titus must take advantage of these situations with quick developing short routes, forcing Jacksonville out of their 2-deep coverage.
Calvin Johnson is suffering from a lingering knee injury, and recently has caught a case of the Brandon Pettigrew drops. The injury isn’t believed to be serious, and although it may keep Johnson off of the practice field, he will certainly be a factor on Sunday. Even without the gaudy statistics, Megatron is doing his part to impact defenses, just by making them allocate defenders to guarding against his potential. Where the receiver must improve, however, is inside of his own head. Johnson’s drops may be a result of his frustration. The star player would have no problem with downward trending productivity if the team was winning, but the Lions have been a disappointment thus far. It appears that Johnson is pressing things, and the lack of focus has been evident in recent key drops against Chicago and Seattle. Calvin will need to get his mindset back this weekend, and make sure to hang onto every opportunity that he gets, especially if he is seeing single coverage, which is unlikely. If Calvin Johnson is unable to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon, somebody else will have to, and that somebody needs to be Titus Young.