What Do the Detroit Lions Really Need Before Next Season? Restraint

Dec 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell (L) questions a call with field judge Scott Edwards (3) during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell (L) questions a call with field judge Scott Edwards (3) during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

Part of the offseason prep for next season is training the team on the field – What do the Detroit Lions really need before next season? The offseason is here and every NFL club is making their plans for the draft and free agency. With everyone wondering what each of the teams needs during the offseason, college superstar names like Jabrill Peppers, Miles Garrett and DeShone Kizer, it’s hard to think about OTAs and training through the summer. But what many teams need in the offseason is something most of them don’t think about. Training. Specifically appropriate field behavior to avoid penalties. This season saw a record number of penalty yards for some teams, a stat that needs to be addressed before next season.

The Lions are still in the middle, but there’s lots of room for improvement

While Detroit was ranked somewhere in the middle of the pack, with 107 accepted penalties for 929 yards, several of these penalties are things that veteran or at least seasoned players should know better than to commit.

Related Story: 2016 Penalties by Team

What some might call a tackle

The Detroit Lions committed almost as many fouls as they benefited from, which isn’t much different from several teams. But with penalties for something as simple as A’Shawn Robinson’s so-called body slam against Ezekiel Elliot, Detroit can tighten up their behavior and dominate teams like Dallas in just that category alone. That was a 15-yard penalty. Unnecessary and yes, a bad call by the more atrocious officials, it was even berated by the MNF squad on national television. The Lions need to get more consistent with those definitive tackles so they seem like business as usual. Alternatively, they can stop committing them. Seems simple but with the laundry list of fouls that exist, and the (almost as long) list of fouls called this season, off-the-field training is essential on both sides of the ball.

It’s an Offensive League, offensive toward the defense

We hear it all the time. Defense wins championships. But defense can also lose games. The rulebook is slanted toward the offense, as it has been for years. Defensive flags are thrown on what seems like every fourth play. It’s absurd to think that a safety is guilty of holding as often as an offensive lineman.

All of this is evidenced by the ratio of defensive to offensive penalty yardage. Of 37 penalty flags thrown against the Detroit Lions this season, 20 of those were against the defense. That may seem pretty even, but defensive fouls carry much harsher sentences. Cornerback Nevin Lawson had a total of 134 yards on his own, which accounted for almost 1/3 of the defense’s penalty yards. And that was on just 6 flags! More than 22 yards per flag on average makes it achingly evident that the defense has to mind their p’s and q’s much more than their offensive counterparts.

We’re all responsible and accountable to each other

No one is innocent, so the team as a whole has work to do. Not quite as much as, say, Oakland or Jacksonville, 1st and 2nd, respectively in the league this year. But imagine the advantage a team could have with a little more discipline. That alone might have saved Matthew Stafford from having to dig deep and execute those 8 late-game comebacks. The outcome of the game versus Dallas if some of those flags didn’t exist. Maybe that drive would have ended in the touchdown they needed to at least com closer to winning the game. It certainly would have been a better contest at least.

Whether you subscribe to the theory of momentum or not, the concept seems to play out in all too many games each and every season. Anyone who has played team sports knows how quickly the wind goes out of the sails when something goes wrong. They have to totally reset. That’s hard off the field, let alone in the middle of a game where every play could mean the end of the season and your playoff hopes.

When you have a well-oiled machined driving downfield cleanly and efficiently, you look like a great team. In fact, that is a good team. Take the Packers, for example. They had the fourth lowest total penalty yardage this year and they looked like champs week after week. Aaron Rodgers knows how to take advantage of a situation to give his team a leg-up in third-down situations. He’s notorious for the quick-snap, 12-men on the field call. It’s gotten the Packer 5 yards closer to that first down more than a couple of times, once against Detroit in the NFC North Championship game.

Drafting, Free Agency, or just plain old reps on the practice field and in the training rooms can shift a whole team to the “W” column

Bottom line, field awareness is important. Game tapes and analysis could have given the players a heads-up and saved them those 5. This is key in training the young guys and reminding the old guys how important it is to watch your mouth and more importantly, watch your hands to save your team from itself.

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