5 Lions Predictions for the 2016 season


Most analysts are expecting a below average season from the Lions, partly due to Calvin Johnson’s retirement, but mostly because they are the Lions. With training camp having just opened, here are five bold predictions for the upcoming season.

5. Eric Ebron leads the team in touchdowns.

Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron (85) makes a catch and looks for running room during the third quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports /

Ebron doubled his rookie production in 2015, finishing with over 500 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those certainly aren’t Pro Bowl numbers, but without the 6-foot-5 Johnson around anymore, Ebron is the biggest target on the team. Golden Tate will likely lead the team in yardage but his size doesn’t make him much of a red-zone target. Marvin Jones is taller but more of a deep-threat. Quarterbacks prefer bigger guys in the red-zone where the coverage is tighter. Just a few seasons ago, undrafted rookie tight end, Joseph Fauria, had seven touchdown catches. Fauria was a few inches taller than Ebron, but didn’t have anywhere near the athletic ability. I’m not predicting Ebron gets 15 touchdowns, just that without Johnson, the ball will be spread around a bit more. Ebron both knowing the system and being the biggest of the bunch, should make him Stafford’s go-to target in the red-zone. If he isn’t he should be as a former tenth overall pick.

4. A’Shawn Robinson is a starter week one of the regular season.

Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson speaks during media day at Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Robinson was a steal in the 2nd-round, mostly because of the depth at the defensive tackle position in this past draft. The Lions have Haloti Ngata, who’s all but guaranteed one of those starting spots.  The other spot was likely to go to either Tyrunn Walker or Caraun Reid before Robinson was selected by Detroit. There is absolutely no guarantee Robinson jumps over either of those two on the depth chart. However, unlike most rookies, Robinson played for Nick Saban, the best coach in college football. Saban demands a lot out of his players and being that he was a key cog on a National Championship Alabama defense, he’s certainly more pro-ready than most rookies. The Lions taking him in the 2nd leads me to believe he at least gets a chance to line up next to Ngata. Whether he starts or not, he will get a good amount of playing time since the Lions like to keep their defensive lineman fresh. But I predict Robinson looks so good in practice and the preseason that he enters the regular season as one of the two starting defensive tackles.

3. Stafford throws less interceptions than last year (under 13).

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) runs with the ball during the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

Matthew Stafford has only thrown under 13 interceptions once in a season in which he’s started all 16 games. You may think that without Johnson and with so many new faces at receiver that those interceptions will go up. I think the opposite happens. Johnson and Stafford had developed great chemistry, so much so, that Stafford would often throw it up to Johnson when he was double or triple-covered. Johnson was able to bring down a good deal of those jump balls, but that trust took years to build and would still result in bad interceptions on occasion. Without Megatron, I believe Stafford is likely to be more cautious with the ball. I could be terribly wrong of course but if we are going by the second half of last season, Stafford threw just 2 interceptions over the final 8 weeks. If he plays at, or near that level, I imagine he will significantly cut down on his season total. Stafford is entering his 8th season and, although he still does so on occasion, he has gotten better at not making those careless, Brett Favre-style throws.

2. Tahir Whitehead leads the team in tackles.

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell talks to middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

It is hard to imagine anybody other than DeAndre Levy leading the team in tackles. Despite Levy starting training camp on the Non-football injury list, I still think he gets back on the field by week one. Tahir Whitehead, however, is finally coming into the season with a defined role. The Lions have moved him around in previous seasons, with Levy and Tulloch both missing significant amounts of time with injuries. Whitehead filled in respectably at inside and outside linebacker, but seemed more comfortable in the middle. Finally, he comes into 2016 as the unquestioned starting middle linebacker, which is a great position for tackle totals. He will have to prove to be the tacking machine that Stephen Tulloch was in his prime. Whitehead will benefit from a healthy Levy next to him as well. The whole defense was affected without Levy’s presence last season. Whitehead’s most productive year came in 2014, when he filled in at middle linebacker after Tulloch’s season-ending injury. Whitehead finished that season with 86 total tackles and 2 interceptions.

Devin Taylor finishes with double-digit sacks.

Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) overshadowed Devin Taylor when the two played together at South Carolina. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Taylor had a career-best 7 sacks last season as a rotational defensive end. The Lions liked him enough to let go of Jason Jones and will now see how Taylor handles the starting gig. With Ansah also coming off of a career year — totaling 14.5 sacks last season — offenses will be game-planning to stop him first and foremost. That should free up Taylor to get after the quarterback and possibly improve on last year’s total. Coming into last season, people wondered if Ansah could handle being the top defensive lineman without Suh, but he handled it just fine. Now, defenses will be more locked in on Ansah than ever. Taylor, being a 6-foot-7, quick defensive end, should be able to beat his man when offenses double up on Ziggy. Taylor will have to earn that job out of camp without a doubt, but it’s safe to say he is the favorite. I’ve always liked Taylor’s potential coming out of South Carolina. He played in Jadeveon Clowney’s shadow in college and now Ansah’s in the NFL. He has worked his way up from 4th-round draft pick to a borderline starter. You have to respect a guy like that.