Is Matthew Stafford the Detroit Lions perceived weak link?

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

If we take a long hard look at the Detroit Lions, they don’t stack up as badly to the rest of the division as the media would have us believe. After a horrible start to last season, the Lions defense learned how to play Matt Patricia’s system, finishing 10th in overall defense and creating a tremendous springboard for themselves for this coming season.

The defensive line is anchored by Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison who is one of the best defensive tackles in the business. Toss in the addition of Trey Flowers who was born to play Matt Patricia’s defense as well as holdovers Romeo Okwara, Da’Shawn Hand, A’Shawn Robinson, and fourth-round pick Austin Bryant and you have the building blocks of what could be a dynamic defensive line.

If any of the Lions’ other offseason additions are able to contribute the way Okwara did fresh off the New York Giants scrap heap last year, it will only make this group that much better.

Meanwhile, the linebacker corps which was a major concern at this time last year improved dramatically. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room to still improve, because there is, but addition Devon Kennard played well and should be better with a year of Matt Patricia’s defense under his belt. Christian Jones was solid if unspectacular, and Jarrad Davis did take some steps forward.

Davis still has more work to do, but he isn’t the weak link that many have suggested, and showed an outstanding ability to get to the quarterback when utilized on the blitz. Despite the head-scratching over second-round pick Jahlani Tavai, he was very impressive during O.T.A’s and is physically a natural fit to Patricia’s defense with plenty of versatility to offer.

Then, of course, there is the secondary which has become deeper and more capable of doing its job than last year. Basically, if both Harrison and Darius Slay show up to training camp and honor their contracts this season, then I would absolutely expect this to be at least close to a top-five defense this season.

Meanwhile, on offense, the Lions have started the Darrell Bevell era, which will involve a balanced offense that features a powerful run game and a diverse passing attack. The offensive line still has a question mark at left guard, if Frank Ragnow moves to center and Graham Glasgow slides to right guard. But the rest of the pieces should be solid.

The backfield features budding star running back Kerryon Johnson, with depth provided by C.J. Anderson, reliable Zach Zenner and either or both Theo Riddick and rookie speedster Ty Johnson.

The receiving talents of Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola will be accentuated by young T.J. Hockenson and veteran Jesse James at tight end. And names like Travis Fulgham, Brandon Powell, Logan Thomas and possibly Issac Nauta could become valuable depth if they can learn their craft.

So the question is; why can’t the Lions compete in the NFC North?