Most analysts would probably agree that the Detroit Lions have added the right pieces through free agency and in the draft to be bounce back from a 4-12 record a season ago. However, with the NFC so competitive and the Lions playing in one of the best divisions in football, many would find it hard to give the Lions more than eight or nine wins this season. For that to change the Lions have to show that they have improved in their weakest areas on the team, the secondary and the offensive line.
If you read my article a few weeks ago, I predicted double digit wins in 2013 for the Lions. I acknowledge my prediction of 11-5 may be a bit gracious with the NFC having so much depth – literally three teams in each division have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.
We all know the Lions ability to attack in the passing game and their talent on the defensive line resembles a playoff team, but it’s the new additions in the secondary, and an overhaul along the offensive line that have the media taking a “let’s see what happens” approach to the Lions’ 2013 season, before they put the them in their playoff predictions.
In the limited sample we were given from the starters along the offensive line and secondary the Lions showed that there is much room for improvement.
On the offensive line the Lions showed the ability to create space for the running back, but it wasn’t consistent enough to be excited about. There were some plays made that the Lions can hopefully build on for the remaining games in the preseason such as third round pick Larry Warford’s ability to get to the second level. If Warford proves he can do that on a consistent bases, and left guard Rob Sims continues to play at a high level, the run game should be strong enough to support the passing game.
What scares me the most about the offensive line is the left tackle position. Second year tackle Riley Reiff will be protecting Matthew Stafford’s blind side, and he hasn’t exactly stood out in his time there. I see him as an all-pro at right tackle, but when he’s at left tackle, facing Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, and Clay Matthews six times a year, the only thing that will ensure confidence is a solid performance every week he plays in the preseason. In the first week of preseason I was a little disappointed.
I came away very optimistic about the new additions of safety Glover Quin and rookie cornerback Darius Slay. Quin was in good position the two series he played, even making a would be interception before the ball got jarred loose by a wide receiver making a heads up play. Slay was never thrown to, but that’s because he was in great position the entire time he was on the field. I have a lot of confidence in the likely starters of Louis Delmas, Glover Quin, Chris Houston and Darius Slay in the secondary.
Where my concern lies is in the depth of the secondary unit, because at that position group there has been a revolving door of players in recent years thanks to their inability to stay healthy. To address that issue the Lions focused on acquiring bigger players, which should help, but it’s the NFL and injuries are going to occur. What the second and third units in the secondary show in preseason is important, because at anytime this season one of those players could be a starter due to injury.
After watching the performance of the second and third units closely, I had trouble staying healthy there and what the second unit displayed their play reminded me a lot of 2012 secondary. Safety Don Carey was no where to be found when Mark Sanchez lobbed a pass over Travis Lewis‘s head for a touchdown and Bill Bentley was trailing receivers after they made a catch, when he should have been contesting or swatting down passes.
Is there reason for concern at this point? Maybe a little, but it is just the first preseason game and players should get better every week. From what the offensive line and secondary have shown up to this point, the team looks more like an eight or nine win team, rather than the 11-5 team I think they could be.