It may be too early to judge the Lions success in 2013 based on their sub-par performances in the first two preseason games, but what we can judge is what positions still need to be addressed from a personnel standpoint.
Secondary Still lacks reliable second unit
The Lions’ secondary made Brandon Weeden look like a top ten quarterback last Thursday when he went 8-12 for 117 yards and two touchdowns. There was one play in particular that showed us what we saw all of 2012, which was watching possible starter Ron Bartell getting beat down the sideline by Josh Gordon.
Fellow Side Lion reporter Dean Holden made a good point in his article just a few days ago, saying that coaches will purposelessly exposes their weakest area to evaluate were they are at, but getting beat one-on-one on the most basic pass play in football against a veteran that is pushing for a starting role at corner shows that the Lions talent level at the position still needs to be improved.
Now, in all reality the Lions will likely play a safety high to keep the corners from having to match up one-on-one during the regular season, and any player can get burned one-on-one any play, but the play does show that the Lions are not where they need to be just yet.
While the depth might not be as good as the Lions coaches had thought to this point, but second round pick Darius Slay has played really well, even earning first-team duties heading into week three and Louis Delmas has been terrific at safety when he’s healthy. Those two paired with Glover Quin and Chris Houston will hopefully result in a much improved first-team secondary in 2013.
Fans should feel good about incumbent starters Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy, but from what the vacancy at outside linebacker has shown is that the Lions’ long-term starter may not be on the roster. Ashlee Palmer looks like the favorite to win the job, but his tackling has been sporadic and the angles he’s taken on tackles have been poor. The good news is tackling and angles of pursuit are easy things to correct, but the fact something so basic is lacking is troubling.
It’s painfully obvious the Lions receiving corps and offensive line have failed in the first two preseason games. The wide receivers haven’t created any separation and poor run blocking has kept the Lions from finding success on the ground. Add it all up and we’re once again seeing stagnant drives, much like during the 2012 season.
It looks like getting the run game going could be an issue again in 2013, even if the unit is bigger and more athletic. To get any kind of consistency on the ground, Ryan Broyles and Nate Burleson have to get back to 100 percent to ease the pressure off of Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. As of right now, the health on those two looks like the only chance the Lions have this season for improvement in the running game and sustaining drives, because the experience and continuity just isn’t there yet along the offensive line. Some teams run to set up the pass but the Lions will have to pass to set up the run.