Detroit Lions: 4 keys to taking the next step this season

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Mediocrity has plagued the Detroit Lions as of late. The next step of winning division titles and playoff games can’t come soon enough.

Expectations are high for the Detroit Lions. General manager Bob Quinn has brought some consistency to the franchise with an 18-14 record in two seasons. He also has three drafts under his belt, and the results have been decent, but are no where near completion.

It is hard to know if Quinn has fully righted the ship, but there was a major step taken this offseason. Quinn made his first head coach hire in Matt Patricia, after inheriting head coach Jim Caldwell for two years.

Patricia is supposed to be the final piece that gets the Detroit Lions over that hump of mediocrity. To get where Detroit wants to go, many things have to go right.

Here are four keys to the Lions finally taking the next step, which is to win the division and at least one playoff game (although more would be welcomed).


This is the most obvious key, and actually might be the simplest. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has proven himself a capable leader on the field. He has great statistics and a knack for making comebacks.

As long as Stafford continues to play at the level he has, Detroit is in good shape. But if a running game is added to the mix, Stafford’s effectiveness will go up ten-fold.  There is one guy that can make that ground game something special.


Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson is the biggest key to transforming the Detroit Lions run game. Yes, running back LeGarrette Blount adds a much needed presence on the field and a proven track record. But this all comes down to Kerryon becoming a star player right away.

It is a lot to ask, but not unprecedented. Rookie running backs have the easiest transition to the pro game, and Johnson has the pedigree to make that transition.

Kerryon’s rookie season is all about the Detroit Lions staff choosing the right player. It doesn’t matter who went ahead of Johnson in the last draft. All that matters is that Detroit got their man.

Kerryon more than any other player on the current roster will speak to how good (or bad) Bob Quinn and company are at doing their jobs.


This is the third key and it is also on offense. This may seem like a lot for one side of the ball, but offensive tackle Taylor Decker has a major impact on the entire offensive line. If Decker can lock down the left side, his very talented o-line teammates should follow suit.

Of course, Decker and company have a big impact on the run game as well. For Johnson, Blount, or any other back to have success next year, the offensive line must play well.


The last key is about the defense. The defense has not received the same amount of assets as the offense, especially at the top of the past draft. Meanwhile, most of the signings on defense have been about adding depth and versatility, not about splashy free agents.

This versatility is the key to a defensive leap this year. Patricia, as defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, was part of three Super Bowl efforts (winning two). Those championship runs were about getting the most out of every player, and using the scheme to outmaneuver the opposing offense.

For the Lions, this year and beyond will be about continuing to acquire versatility on defense and using game plans to outsmart opponents. This is easier said than done, but it is “the Patriot way” that was perfected by New England. Specifically by their head coach Bill Belichick, who has mentored Patricia from an assistant to an NFL head coach.

Now, the apprentice must work his way to becoming the master. Just how long that takes is anyone’s guess.


There are many factors that go into a winning season. But if the four above keys come to fruition in some form or another, the Lions should finally win a playoff game.

It is hard to say if the first steps towards a championship will be taken this season. It is a tall order to change the trajectory of a franchise that is synonymous with failure.

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However, lately they have been synonymous with mediocrity. If Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia can work together as well as everyone hopes, they can change the fortunes of this Detroit Lions’ franchise. Hopefully, it is not a matter of “if they do it,” but simply a matter of “when they do it.”