2019 Detroit Lions: Are great expectations reasonable?
By Robert Jones
One big concern is right up front on the offensive line. Center Frank Ragnow returned to practice this week, which is a definite plus, but there is still a great deal of mystery about the left guard position. The Lions website lists Kenny Wiggins as the starter on the post-final cuts depth chart.
Wiggins was inconsistent last year when forced into duty after T.J. Lang was injured. Lang was also their best offensive lineman and now he’s retired and in street clothes. The move of Ragnow to center does help improve this unit, but they have much to prove.
If they can’t open holes for Kerryon Johnson or protect Matthew Stafford, then it doesn’t matter what offense this team runs, it’s bound to fail. If this group can prove the world wrong, then the Lions offense could be lethal. However, that isn’t a tiny ‘if’.
The linebacker group appeared to be better than last season, but with Jarrad Davis going down to injury, I’d say it’s a wash at best for the moment. Davis is expected back on the field sooner or later, but a high ankle sprain could bother him all season, affecting his play.
While good defensive line play in front of them will make their jobs easier, Jahlani Tavai’s inexperience and Davis missing time is a concern for the linebackers.
The starting receivers are a strength as I mentioned earlier, but there is legitimate concern about depth. Chris Lacy is more established on special teams and while Travis Fulgham does possess potential, he’s young and inexperienced.
The tight ends will give the receivers some big-time help, but if the Lions lose receivers like they did last year, then that will be a major concern.
Are the Lions better than last year? Absolutely. But will their record benefit from it? This is when all we can do is look at this team on paper, be realistic, and go with our gut. Despite what appears to be a tough early schedule, these Lions are talented enough to win nine or 10 games, but the questions about the offensive line are very real and that single unit could sink this team without consistently good play. Great play would be wonderful, but if they can just be good, so can the Lions.
It also goes without saying that if Matthew Stafford goes down, the season is over.
Rarely is the season opener a ‘must-win’, but in the case of the Lions journey to Arizona for Sunday’s tilt with the Cardinals, it is. A fast start before they hit their toughest run of games this season will be imperative for Matt Patricia and his team.
Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia believe the Lions are ready to win. Martha Firestone Ford is expecting them to win. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will be winners, but if they fall short of nine wins this season, then it won’t be the fault of a curse or the ‘same old Lions’. It’ll simply mean they didn’t get the job done.
But don’t be too surprised if they do.