The sequel to our look at the Detroit Lions Who Must Succeed in 2013 heads to the much maligned defense and special teams units where we’ll look at a pair of defensive players, and an important special teams player replacing a legend.
With the splashiest free agent signing for Detroit being Reggie Bush, it can be argued that the signing of Glover Quin is equally a game changer for the Lions. What Bush can immediately do for the offense, Quin can offer to the defense. Martin Mayhew did not address the secondary after 2011, assuming the returning unit, which was solid enough to earn a postseason appearance, could hold up again–this was not the case.
Learning from his mistakes, Mayhew went about reassembling the secondary. Re-signing the best defensive back on the team, Chris Houston, bringing back Louis Delmas on an incentive-laden, no-risk contract, drafting promising Darius Slay, and picking up former Pro Bowler Chris Hope.
Having formerly played the position, Quin can cover like a DB, but hit like a safety. He gives them the flexibility to move him between free and strong safety, and can be solid in blitzing situations. If he is at the top of his game, it will bring up the play of everyone else in the unit. Perhaps for the first time in a long time a little doubt will be in the mind of an opposing quarterback before slinging the ball against the Detroit Lions.
Yesterday we talked about Bush’s claim that the Lions should have the NFL’s top offense. Another boast that was made this off-season by Detroit was that of Nick Fairley when he stated that the duo of himself and Ndamukong Suh are the NFL’s best defensive tackle combo. Some may laugh this off, but they shouldn’t.
Lost in the awful 2012 season was the fact that Suh had a bounce-back year after a disappointing 2011 season, and Fairley had a breakthrough sophomore campaign. The pair combined for 69 tackles and 13.5 sacks. Despite what Warren Sapp says, Suh is an elite NFL DT, and if Fairley can get to that level too, opposing offenses better be ready. Should the secondary improve, it will create additional time for the pair to hit the quarterback while he’s searching for open options.
It is never easy replacing a legend. Throughout the years of Lions’ struggles on offense, despite groaning that the team would settle for another field goal attempt, you’d at least expect that most of the time that field goal, off the iron leg of Jason Hanson, would go through the uprights. With Hanson retired, the Lions turn to David Akers.
Because Lions’ fans have had a pretty consistent kicker since 1992 (and pair of consistent kickers since 1980), they may take for granted that field goals aren’t a foregone conclusion. Sort of like how tough it was for the Lions to replace Barry Sanders and how fans took for granted a potent running game (something the team is still trying to do all these years later).
Kickers miss all the time, though Hanson rarely did. Akers missed a lot of kicks last year, hitting on just 69 percent. The 14-year veteran reportedly played through injuries which caused the inconsistency, but other than 2012 he has had a pretty good career.
Before being injured last season, Akers tied the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal–and that was outside at Lambeau Field. Some of his struggles might be chalked up to playing home games in the swirling winds at Candlestick Park–something he won’t have to worry about while playing nine indoor games (10 if you count Arizona) in 2013.
It’s worth nothing when the pressure was on, Akers was 3-for-3 in the Super Bowl with the 49ers. Its also worth noting that Akers will have competition for the job in the form of YouTube sensation Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland. Odds are great Akers will win the job, but the competition can only be a positive for him.