Aug 15, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Lions defensive back Myron Lewis (40) breaks up a pass intended for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Tori Gurley (9) during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Why It's Too Soon to Panic about the Detroit Lions' 2013 Season

Aug 15, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Terrence Austin (16) is tackled by Cleveland Browns cornerback Trevin Wade (26) and linebacker L.J. Fort (58) in the third quarter of a preseason game at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve seen enough of training camp and two preseason games to know one thing:

The Lions’ first string doesn’t look great, and it’s time to panic.

The offensive line looks porous, the running game looks as ineffective as ever, and the secondary doesn’t look any more solid than it has in the last decade.

So what does this mean? Have the Lions failed to address any of their major concerns heading into this season?

It’s certainly possible, but it’s an awful lot more possible that it’s actually not time to panic because this is the preseason and calm down.

The preseason is where teams deliberately put pressure on potential problem areas to see how they do and what needs fixing. It turns out, a lot needs fixing, but it’s good to discover that in the preseason, rather than in week 10.

Now, don’t take this as a full pass for poor performances. What’s really concerning about the Lions’ lackluster preseason performances is that players individually look bad.

Matthew Stafford looks rusty, and seemed lost without Calvin Johnson on the field. Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew dropped passes. On defense, players were missing tackles habitually, which is indefensible under any circumstances outside of “playing flag football with kids.”

It looks bad, for sure. I completely understand why people have their fingers on the panic button.

Really, it’s just like that time everybody in Baltimore freaked out about the Ravens losing to the Lions 27-12 in the second preseason game, in which Joe Flacco only went 7/12 for 79 yards. I mean, that was all the way back in 2012, and the Ravens only won one Super Bowl that year.

Or remember when the New York Giants got embarrassed 17-3 by the lowly New York Jets in the all-important third game of the 2011 preseason? Eli Manning only completed half of his passes, and he threw two interceptions. The Giants only won a single lousy Super Bowl that season, too.

“Well, yeah,” you say, “but those were barely over .500 teams who had a lucky late-season run. They weren’t necessarily the best teams in the league.”

That’s a flawed premise in and of itself (if you win the Super Bowl, nobody much cares about your regular season record), but let’s explore it anyway.

Let’s go back exactly six years to August 17, 2007, when the New England Patriots threw four interceptions and mustered a scant 2.7 yards per carry in an ugly 27-24 preseason loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Patriots took nine penalties in that game, and Tom Brady himself threw two interceptions.

While it’s true that the Patriots lost the Super Bowl that year, they also won 18 straight games to get there, and busted a bunch of offensive records in the process.

The point here is that ugly preseason performance is not an indicator that regular season performance will be anywhere near similar. You won’t hear me suggest that the Lions’ performance through half the preseason has been anything but discouraging, for sure, but it’s no reason to start flushing the season just yet.

Besides, would you rather see a repeat of the Lions’ 2008 season, in which they had a 4-0 preseason? The defense looked awesome in that preseason, allowing an average of only eight points per game. They would go on to give up the second-most points in a single season in NFL history, en route to a 0-16 season.

It may be difficult to turn a blind eye to what looks, very plainly, like poor play on the gridiron. Even the Lions’ players themselves are a little upset about their performances to this point, and the Lions’ recent defensive signings suggest the front office isn’t happy with the results they’re getting on the field, either. So any of your concerns are most likely well-founded.

But remember: it’s the preseason, calm down. This is not the season you’re looking for. The Lions have fallen out of the running for a preseason championship, but that other one is still attainable.

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  • fiscusd

    Great analysis Dean. Coaches learn more from a preseason loss than from a win. This is not the same team that won 2 games in 2 years. We don’t need to pump ourselves up with a meaningless win. The OL got a lot of reps, and the coaches got a good look and who can play, and who can’t. Bringing in several veterans is not a sign of panic, but it is a shot across the bow for some of these players. If some of these vets make the team, even if for 1 year while the youngsters develop, that is a positive thing. The Lions were better than 4-12 last year. Special teams certainly lost a couple games for us. This new punter is starting to make a believer out of me. If he can pin a team back, and hang the ball so it can’t be returned, he will be a game changer and worth the draft pick.

    • Dean Holden

      Agreed. This is a talented team that seems bent on underachieving. Signing some veterans is Schwartz’s way of saying “meet expectations or you can and will be replaced.” I don’t think he actually has long-term plans for Mathis or McIntosh, but he wants the other guys (especially the youngsters) to feel the heat. Not a bad strategy, and he gets to kick some tires in the meantime.

  • William Rhoads

    Its really hard being a lions fan we have seen them 4-0 in preseason and then 0-16 the regular season! I am frustrated about the Rugland issue I do not believe AKers is the answer and Rugland will not clear waivers another team will pickup him up and he will have a great career in the NFL ! For just one season AKers will not make it through the season with his groin injury and then will searching bars for a kicker! or martin will do it all! Then there is Leashoure not one RB that has his type of injury has ever comeback to what he was he is slower and he can not cut hard! Reddick is his replacement because he can catch the ball out side the pocket Something that Leashoure is terrible at and he also is can not make his mind up what to do when he runs by the time he does its to late! Reddick on the hand finds holes and runs through them! I do not care that he is a second draft pick if he can not deliver especially after his injury its a wasted spot on the roster I believe that bush,bell,reddick and miller should be 1-2-3-4 inthat order miller is fast and he cuts and jukes very well yes only 5’7 but that makes him hard to see and catch! the secondary has one solid player right now slay is a solid CB and for the first two preseason they have thrown away from him to the weaker side of secondary! That is why things look troubling in Detroit 40 year fan of the lions and have seen this before!

    • Dean Holden

      I would argue the Lions have two solid secondary players in Houston and Quin. Slay looks good, but let’s wait until we see him in real action before we make any judgments. It’s sad about Leshoure, but he really doesn’t look like he did in college/before the Achilles injury. Just be thankful the Lions stumbled on Joique Bell to fill the void.

      • William Rhoads

        Then why is he the only one covering his guy from start to finish! The one sure way to find out make them play man to man and slay is very good in man to man and he will be playing first string come the start of the regular season! He is the only one so far that seems to know what he is doing!He is excelling why that vet so far have been floundering ! Bentley and Edwards have been terrible! it going to be really interesting when it comes down on 53 man roster!

  • Devon

    Thank you thank you thank you! Finally some common sense! It’s amazing how easily swayed and short sighted some fans are

  • Terry Welsh

    I’m just happy to get through the preseason games without our players getting hurt. Cleveland was playing like it was a Superbowl and Detroit played like they didn’t want to get hurt, so I take as a win for the Lions seeing as Cleveland sustained five serious injuries in that game and Detroit got a few nicks. If the Lions tackle and play like that during the regular season than we have a problem.

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