Each week SideLion Report will be doing a weekly blog on the areas the Detroit Lions need to improve as well as an opponent preview for upcoming games as the Lions chase the NFC North crown. We’ll take a look at what areas the Lions need to address for their next match up. This week, the two areas the Lions need to improve moving into week 11 are cornerback play and focus.
Cornerback play - This is just one of those areas that we will likely be seeing a lot of for the remainder of the season unless Darius Slay or Bill Bentley make tremendous strides in their development. Even the Lions’ best corner, Chris Houston, has been the model of inconsistency this season. Consider turnovers over coverage as a measurement of success for this unit. If they do enough of that to win the game they will stay off of this list.
Focus - Reggie Bush has been targeted 49 times, dropping seven so far this season. That’s good enough for fourth in the league. Among others responsible for drops against the Bears, Jeremy Ross and Kevin Ogletree’s drops set the Lions up for long third down conversions which led to punts. Against the Bears the Lions may have only committed five penalties, but two came in the final two minutes of the game. One by Nick Fairley on a roughing the passer and another on a two point conversion with a helmet to helmet hit by Willie Young that gave the Bears another crack at tying the game up and sending it into overtime. More costly mistakes like those may be the difference between a win and a loss.
Areas of strength that have potential to grow
Offensive Line - The offensive line played a solid game of football against the Bears and could even be considered a strength of the Lions at this point in the season, but they leave me wanting more. Given the Lions youth and talent at this position group, they are very capable of playing at an even higher level then they are now.
Matthew Stafford may not have been sacked against the Bears, but a lot of that can be attributed to Stafford’s decisive decision-making and quick throws. Even with quick throws, the pocket still didn’t hold up long enough as Stafford was forced into some poor throws and had multiple balls batted down at the line of scrimmage against a Bears’ defense that has been decimated by injuries. Now batted down balls could be attributed to the offensive line, the quarterback, the way the defense is playing, or a combination of all three. The Lions’ offensive line has been performing admirably all season, but I feel like they have yet to hit their stride with two rookies starting on the right side of the line in Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle. Although these rookies have been performing at a very high level, the line as a whole has the potential to get even better as the season progresses.
Next Game: At Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers may be 3-6, but as far as they are concerned they are 8-0. The Steelers are one of the toughest teams in the NFL and they don’t quit, bringing their best effort every game. I don’t think the Lions take any of their opponents lightly, but if they do, this isn’t the week. Pittsburgh’s defense is a work in progress and the team as a whole is quietly rebuilding, but if Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ high octane offense isn’t focused, as we pointed as an area of improvement, they may let the Steelers hang around long enough to upset them. Be focused in all three phases, protect the quarterback, and stick to the game plan and the Lions should leave the Steel City with a “W”.