Dec 16, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
The Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings upgraded this offseason, but where does each team rank in the NFC North?
Over the weekend, SideLion Report will be releasing it’s NFC North Ranking’s for the 2014 season. Coming up next is our projected second place finisher, the Detroit Lions.
Last Year’s SideLion Report Offseason Rank: 2nd
Last Year’s finish: 3rd
2014 Draft Class:
Eric Ebron, TE, first round
Kyle Van Noy, OLB, second round
Travis Swason, C/OG, third round
Nevin Lawson, CB, fourth round
Larry Webster, DE, fourth round
Caraun Reid, DT, fifth round
T.J. Jones, WR, sixth round
Nate Freese, K, seventh round
Key additions: Golden Tate, WR; James Ihedigbo, S; Jed Collins, FB
Key departures: Willie Young, DE; Israel Idonije, DE; Louis Delmas,S
Undrafted Free Agents That Can Make An Impact In 2014: Offensive tackle Cornelius Lewis has a chance to win a roster spot and even start in 2014. He’s got tremendous size at 6’8 330 lbs and has an 88 inch wing span. He’s got all the tools to be a stellar left tackle in the league and a great coaching staff that can maximize his potential, just as Detroit did with L.A Waddle last season. Another player to watch is safety Jerome Couplin who at 6’2 213 lbs has the ideal skill-set of today’s strong safety. Running a 4.5 forty with a 41.5 inch vertical and 18 reps at 225 lbs his also has the measurables to be a force against the run and in coverage. Couplin could be a starting safety in the NFL, but for now, he will at least be a very good special teams player for the Lions.
Detroit Lions Analysis:
Detroit had a solid draft and solidified most of their needs. The Lions failing to address the cornerback position in free agency or early in the draft means they are banking on their young cornerbacks in Bill Bentley, Darius Slay, Chris Greenwood, and Jonte Green to play often and play well. Each has shown flashes, but the consistency of the group will determine how far Detroit goes this season.
Potentially the most important need the Lions wanted to address this offseason was finding the right mix of coaches to replace Jim Schwartz and his staff and bring in a group that can take Matthew Stafford’s game to the next level. The Lions’ front office put together a solid coaching staff to fill that need with head coach Jim Caldwell, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and quarterback’s coach Jim Bob Cooter, who have all worked extensively with elite quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
The Lions also added Super Bowl winning wide receiver Golden Tate and drafted match-up nightmare Eric Ebron to ensure Stafford has every opportunity to thrive. Sixth round pick TJ Jones could prove to be a steal if he can round out the Lions receiving corps and the Lions added some intriguing prospects in the middle rounds. Defensive tackle Caraun Reid, who I expect to end up as the third best defensive tackle on the roster by the end of the season, and Larry Webster, who has a high ceiling and off the chart measurables could make this draft class one of the best Detroit’s had.
The Lions have a roster that can compete with anyone and anything less than a playoff berth would be a disappointment. Whether or not the Lions can prevent themselves from getting in their own way will determine how far the team goes. If they can do that, there’s no reason to think this team can’t win the division. Until they prove they can put it all together to realize that potential, they’ll be in a dog-fight with the Chicago Bears slotted behind the Green Bay Packers.