Detroit Lions’ 2016 Biggest Surprises and Disappointments
This year has been a roller coaster for Lions fans. From Calvin Johnson retiring to the Lions’ hot streaks, to this last three game stretch. Through it, we’ve seen some very talented players show back up (Anquan Boldin) while others have failed to appear (Ziggy Ansah). So let’s revisit the players who astounded us and the ones who have room for improvement next season.
3. Offensive Line
I personally did not expect our offensive line to be this good. Watching Matthew Stafford control the game in the fourth quarter of Lions wins, part of that is the offensive line giving our QB time.
Yes, they’ve allowed the occasional sack – they’re tied with Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Carolina for 16th in allowed sacks – but that’s just one sack more than lines that should be thought of as good – lines like Green Bay and Tampa Bay.
This offensive line has allowed Matthew Stafford time to make decisions, and that has led to comebacks time and time again. When the offense is clicking, part of it is due to the offensive line.
And while the running game hasn’t been great, Ameer Abdullah has been hurt for a long time. Theo Riddick is now out as well. The offensive line can only do so much.
2. Kerry Hyder, Jr.
A Jets cast off in the pre-season, there weren’t a ton of expectations placed on Kerry Hyder as a Lion. We needed defense, and Hyder maybe could provide it, simple as that.
It certainly wasn’t expected that Hyder would be the Lions’ leader in sacks. This season, Hyder has 8. That’s good for 15th in the league. Hyder is the only Lion in the top 40.
Hyder has also been all over the field, racking up 33 tackles. For a 25-year-old rookie, that’s not half bad.
Hyder looks to be valuable for the future, especially on a defense where he’s not getting much other sack help.
1. Lions Receivers
The whole receiver core at one point or another this season has shined. From Marvin Jones with a fast start to Golden Tate later in the season, everybody’s had their time to shine.
I mention these guys as a surprise because when Calvin Johnson retired, I don’t think Lions fans expected the receivers to step up this much.
Yes, the team is one of the leaders in drops – at 5.1%, but a large part of that is Eric Ebron and Marvin Jones each with 6. Tate and Boldin have been much better.
Speaking of Boldin, at 36 years of age, Anquan has caught 58 passes for 494 yards, averaging 8.5 yards per reception. He’s also got 7 touchdowns. That’s a huge surprise, and Boldin’s been one of Bob Quinn’s better acquisitions.
3. Jim Caldwell’s Coaching Decisions
The deserved disappointment in the Lions coaching was showcased most last week. The situation: the Lions are on fourth down, down 17-6. Jim Caldwell elects to… punt.
Caldwell’s been calling conservative plays all season. And in situations like the one above, it hurts the team.
Caldwell’s also not emotional enough to make the gutsy calls, or to challenge plays when needed. He doesn’t place enough faith in his players, and that also hurts.
Yes, the Lions will finish the year with a winning season, but if we lose our last three and finish out of the playoffs, does that really count?
Caldwell’s got room to improve, and if we can win these last two games, the play calling will have played its part.
2. Lions Run Defense
The Lions run defense got off to a hot start, where they were one of the best teams early in the season. In fact, they didn’t allow a rushing touchdown until the game against Washington where Kirk Cousins ran the ball in.
Then, they hit a wall. The defense has been worse since that game, and they’ve fallen off a cliff in terms of DVOA.
DVOA, for those who don’t know, is a statistic that takes every play from an NFL season and measures it against a league-average. If you’re above average, then you’re doing better than other NFL teams. If you’re below average, you’re not. The Lions are currently 26th in DVOA, with a -10.9%, which means they’re 10.9% worse on situations than an average NFL team.
The Lions are currently 26th in DVOA, with a -10.9%, which means they’re 10.9% worse on situations than an average NFL team. They’re 14th in offense. Which means it’s they’re defense that drops the Lions.
While the Lions defense is good in terms of points allowed, there is still much room to improve.
1. Ziggy Ansah
This season, Ansah has just one sack. That’s after last season where he was third in the NFL with 14.5. That means that Ansah is capable of double digit stats, but this season he won’t come close.
Yes, part of that is an injury Ansah sustained against the Titans in week 2 – a high ankle sprain. He was out until week 6. He also missed week 10 of this year. Still, when Ansah has been healthy this year, he hasn’t been as productive.
If the Lions are going to lead a playoff charge, they’re going to need a better Ziggy Ansah. He’s shown throughout his career he’s capable of being much better.
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