The 2012 season is lost for the Detroit Lions. I won’t get into how much of a disappointment this season has been, but I will mention that this is a young team that lacks experience despite the 10-6 record in 2011. The Lions have struggled to finish games, but as a young team, they need to learn how to win those games and give the youth more experience in preparation for next year.
The Lions have five recent draft picks that are on the active roster that aren’t injured: OT Riley Reiff (1), DE/LB Ronnell Lewis (4), LB Tahir Whitehead (5.a.), CB Jonte Green (6), and LB Travis Lewis (7). The other three draft picks, WR Ryan Broyles (2), CB Dwight Bentley (3), and CB Chris Greenwood (5.b.) are all on injured reserve. Reiff and Green are the only ones on the active list that have gotten some good playing time. The others, not so much.
With the season being lost, the Lions should try to plug in their rookies for those players to gain experience and for the team to get more of a scouting report on what types of players they have.
Riley Reiff is the future replacement for Jeff Backus at left tackle, and the future could be next season. Reiff has had some good playing time coming in as an extra blocker on offense as a tight end or fullback. Reiff did start one game as part of the starting five on Thanksgiving, starting for Backus at left tackle against the Texans. Reiff did have a very solid game in his first career start, as Houston is a good team to test him out against. The future is very bright, but the Lions should start plugging him in more in the starting five.
Ronnell Lewis has only been activated for five games this season, mainly for special teams. Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch are inevitably not going to be on the team next season and there is a possibility that Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young might leave as well. The Lions should start grooming Lewis for him to get more action at defensive end.
Jonte Green has been the lone rookie that has seen a lot of playing time this season (mostly because of injury) but has performed well in three starts. Green has been used on defense and special teams, so there is nothing wrong with his playing time.
Finally, the two linebackers, Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis. Both players have been mainly used on special teams like the rest of the rookies, although Lewis has seen a few snaps at linebacker. Linebacker is one of the teams’ biggest weaknesses this season, and with the potential departures of DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant, the Lions need to know they can count on Whitehead and Lewis for the future.
By no means am I telling the coaches how to do their jobs. However, for the team to move forward as a franchise, they should at least think about playing the young players on the team more often these last three games.