The 2014 season has been dominated by the Detroit Lions defense. Who would have thought I could type that sentence with a straight face before the season? As pleasing as it is to have the #1 defense in both points and yards, something the Lions haven’t had since they were the 1931 Portsmouth Spartans, there has been something wrong with their once elite offense.
While there are a number of factors to blame, the installation of a new scheme, offensive line, the lack of a run game; the primary reason the offense has struggled is due to injuries. It’s hard to believe a healthy Detroit Lions offense would have struggled as much as the team has seen through half of the season.
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Calvin Johnson has already stated that he’ll play against Miami. While it’s obviously a huge boost to be getting the best receiver in the NFL back on the field, Johnson isn’t the only piece that has been missing from the offense. Starting right tackle, LaAdrian Waddle, returns from a concussion to face his hardest test of the season in the Dolphins’ Cameron Wake.
Also returning to the field is at least one of Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria, or Eric Ebron. It’s hard to say who for sure, as it looked a lot like Pettigrew earlier in the week but now looks more like Fauria gets back first. Starting running back Reggie Bush also returns to play against his former team.
The offense couldn’t be getting healthier at a better time. They face a Miami defense that rivals their own. Ranking 3rd in total yards per game, 2nd in passing yards per game, and 3rd in points per game, this Miami defense is no joke. The Dolphins are allowing only 6.0 yards per passing attempt and while their 4.0 YPC on the ground doesn’t sound like much, it is still 10th in the league and the Lions rushing offense hasn’t exactly been stellar.
Offensively, the Lions are dead last in the NFL for YPC on the ground. Their 9th rated passing attack could use a huge bump this week against one of the NFL’s best pass defenses. Their defensive line is one of the fiercest in the league, but despite their defensive rating they are vulnerable on the back end.
Cortland Finnegan was one of the worst CBs in the NFL last season, leading to his ouster from St. Louis, while we’ve all seen the kind of defender Louis Delmas has been. Brent Grimes is an upper tier cornerback, but the Lions have someone other than Calvin to move around the offense.
It will be more important than ever for the Lions to keep up their momentum against the Miami Dolphins. Despite wins against Green Bay and New Orleans, many point to strength of schedule and the Detroit Lions offensive woes as reasons to doubt the team’s playoff aspirations.
Joe Lombardi has been inconsistent at best, but he will have to pull it together and rely on strong showings from one of the most underachieving units in the NFL to come out on top against the Phins at Ford Field. They’re not at full strength yet, but a strong showing against an upper tier defense could push the Lions onto the national stage as true, feared threats.