2016 Lions Opponents: Did They Improve?
By Al Stahl
After a full offseason of free agency and the draft, the Lions’ 2016 opponents will look very different when they face off against Detroit. This week, we’re taking a look at the AFC South.
The Lions will face Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee this season. Detroit has made plenty of changes to try and improve their roster, but so has every other team in the NFL. Here’s a breakdown of how each team has changed since 2015 and whether or not they will be improved in 2016.
Let’s start by taking a look at the changes Houston made on offense:
|2015 Offensive Starters||Proj. 2016 O Starters|
|LT||Duane Brown||LT||Duane Brown|
|LG||Xavier Su’a-Filo||LG||Xavier Su’a-Filo|
|C||Ben Jones||C||Nick Martin|
|RG||Brandon Brooks||RG||Jeff Allen|
|RT||Derek Newton||RT||Derek Newton|
|TE||CJ Fiedorowicz||TE||CJ Fiedorowicz|
|WR||DeAndre Hopkins||WR||DeAndre Hopkins|
|WR||Cecil Shorts||WR||Will Fuller|
|WR||Keshawn Martin||WR||Braxton Miller|
|RB||Alfred Blue||RB||Lamar Miller|
|QB||Brian Hoyer||QB||Brock Osweiler|
The biggest change the Texans made was signing longtime backup and one-year starter for the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, Brock Osweiler. While Osweiler is an obvious improvement over the mess the Texans have had at quarterback since, well, they joined the NFL, he’s still probably the worst quarterback in this division. That is a very depressing sentence.
Aside from the change under center, Houston added speedy FA RB Lamar Miller from Miami to replace Arian Foster. He’ll team up with Alfred Blue to form a nice duo of speed and power. They also added two rookie receivers that will help to stretch the field against defenses, something the Texans have been terrible at in recent years. Braxton Miller and Will Fuller should be able to step in Day 1 and make an impact on the offense. Pairing them with DeAndre Hopkins instantly gives Houston a formidable receiving corps.
Lastly, the Texans offense will replace Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks with rookie C Nick Martin and FA acquisition Jeff Allen. While starting a rookie at center may be a cause for concern, talent wise the Texans shouldn’t expect much drop off.
Now let’s see how the defense looks:
|2015 Defensive Starters||Proj. 2016 D Starters|
|DE||J.J. Watt||DE||J.J. Watt|
|DT||Vince Wilfork||DT||Vince Wilfork|
|DE||Jared Crick||DE||Jared Crick|
|OLB||Whitney Mercilus||OLB||Whitney Mercilus|
|ILB||Benardrick McKinney||ILB||Benardrick McKinney|
|ILB||Brian Cushing||ILB||Brian Cushing|
|OLB||Jadeveon Clowney||OLB||Jadeveon Clowney|
|CB||Kareem Jackson||CB||Kareem Jackson|
|FS||Eddie Pleasant||FS||Eddie Pleasant|
|SS||Rahim Moore||SS||Quintin Demps|
|CB||Johnathan Joseph||CB||Johnathan Joseph|
The Texans’ #3 defense returns 10 of 11 starters, only having to replace SS Rahim Moore. The Texans were ranked seventh in total points allowed last year and should be able to maintain that same defensive production that awarded them a playoff spot last year. The defense also added S K.J. Dillon via the draft, and he should be in the mix in training camp, but right now it looks like Quintin Demps will be back and starting opposite Eddie Pleasant at SS.
While Brock Osweiler is not a good quarterback, he should still be a solid upgrade over Hoyer. Getting younger on the offensive line and adding speed to the running back and receiving corps should help the Texans stay at the top of the division.
Houston has the talent to at least maintain its 9-7 record from last year as long as they can manage to go 5-1 in their division again. As you’ll see a little further in this article, that could be a tall order for the Texans.
Lions’ chances for a road victory: 49%
Next: Up Next: Indianapolis Colts