Detroit Lions : Questions After Week 7


Questions after the week 7 debacle against Minnesota were sad. A season that seemed like it would be filled with excitement has turned into apathy. “Same Ole Lions” is rearing it’s ugly head. But these aren’t your “Same Ole Lions”. This is a team filled with talent, particularly on offense. Using the term underachievers, doesn’t begin to explain the 2015 season for the Lions.

The Detroit Lions fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, offensive line coaches Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan on Monday, just hours before the team was set to leave for London. Coach Jim Caldwell says that the decision was his to do, but seems like a desperate move to keep his own job. It is too little, too late, but should add a hint of promise for the rest of the season going forward.

If you would like to submit a question for next week’s #AskASideLion, submit #AskASideLion on either Facebook or Twitter and the top five will be chosen. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions last week. Here are this week’s questions :

What’s left to cheer about?Ken J.

Welp…….Maybe hope that the Lions pull off a miracle at Lambeau? Or perhaps win on Thanksgiving?

It is hard to find much to cheer about. If anything you are watching to evaluate talent for next season. Who steps up and helps win a couple games? Who is looking flat and will be seeking employment elsewhere next season. What needs do the Lions have going into the draft? There are plenty of reasons to continue to watch.

Personally, to use a NASCAR term “Wrecker or Checkered”. I wanted to see this team make a deep run, but if they aren’t, I can take solace in knowing that big changes will come in the off-season. I was glad to see Lombardi go, although he was simply part of the problem. The poor drafts and bad contracts from Martin Mayhew are on bright display and becoming harder and harder to ignore. Hopefully a clean sweep brings in a regime change and breath of fresh air into an organization who hasn’t won a playoff game since the Bush Sr. Administration.

With Joe Lombardi fired, what can we expect from the offense?Nick G.

I wouldn’t expect much of a change. This late in the season it is nearly impossible to reinvent an offense. New OC Jim Bob Cooter and OL/Assistant Coach Ron Prince may simplify things in the blocking schemes in order to get more quality out of their passing downs.

Hopefully they abandon the personnel packages that are giving away plays. Opposing defenses have been able to snuff out plays based upon the personnel packages that the Lions use. i.e. Cornellius Lucas as an extra TE is obviously a run play. When Theo Riddick is in the game it’s a pass play. Until the Lions keep defenses guessing, it doesn’t matter what plays are called and who is calling them.

Did anyone think that the Lions would actually be this bad? What changed from being a playoff team to a bottom dweller?-Jason M.

Quite simply…..No. Out of all the national pundits, only one had the Lions finishing dead last in the NFC North. Most believed they would finish somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7, missing the playoffs. I personally had this team going 12-4 and turning a corner. I drank the Kool-Aid and paid the price.When focusing on what changed, I have two areas of focus. The first thing that changed is losing your two best defensive players (Suh to free agency and Levy to injury). It is hard to lose your leading tackler and not expect a let down.

Couple with that new pieces that haven’t quite fit and you have a ton of let down on the defensive side of the ball.
In addition to the defensive woes, you have to wonder about the offense. The Lions finished 11-5 in spite of their offense last season. The offense was bad last season, but clicked enough at certain times to get wins. The personnel is the same, and even improved. The bland play calling and schemes have led to the offense putting the defense in a hole.

Why is the secondary playing so poorly? Were they not exposed because of last season’s defensive line? -Nick L.

The second part of your question directly answered your first question. The secondary was exposed at times last season (GB, New England, Arizona), but for the most part were able to slack due to the pressure applied by the defensive line. The linebacking corps also played much better in pass coverage last season as opposed to this season.

It is abundantly clear that Rashean Mathis is playing his age (35). Slay has looked like he has regressed from his play last season, and their is a void at the nickel spot.  Quandre Diggs has looked promising at times, but still has a long way to go. Rookie Alex Carter has not saw the field, so the jury is still out on him. This past off-season would have been a good time to grab a cornerback in free agency, but hands were tied due to poor handling of contracts in prior years.

Do we have the right personnel for a zone blocking scheme? Is it too late in the season to adjust? -Dan W.
No. The mystifying thing is that the Lions have drafted players (Warford, Tomlinson, Reiff, Swanson) whose strengths were in power schemes. Maybe they felt comfortable enough with the athleticism of those players would translate well into zone schemes. However, that has proven to be anything but two. Even guys who are in their second year of the system (Waddle, Reiff, Warford) are playing the worst football of their respective careers.

Newly dubbed offensive line coach Ron Prince, along with new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter may simplify things a bit in upcoming game plans. It is too late in the season to completely switch schemes. Especially when Prince and Cooter are fans of zone blocking.

Next: Re-drafting the Mayhew Era

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