Have the Lions added enough weapons on offense to win?
The 2020 NFL virtual draft was supposed to be a defensive bonanza for the Detroit Lions. Instead, while Bob Quinn did select a couple of key pieces to add to the defense, it was a tribute to offense. It was a statement that the Lions brass believes that Matthew Stafford can and will win games given a talented supporting cast.
Even the great Tom Brady had a subpar season last year when his offensive line, receivers, and running backs were pedestrian with little depth.
For Matthew Stafford, that has been the status quo for all too much of his tenure in Detroit. Yet last season Matthew was one of the best in the league. He thrived in Darrell Bevell’s offense even though it didn’t feature one of the staples of a Darrell Bevell offense; a ground game.
Once again Kerryon Johnson missed time due to injury and no stepped up to give the Lions any kind of pulse until Bob Quinn scooped up Bo Scarbrough from the scrap heap. The former Alabama star has struggled to make an impact in the NFL, but after Matthew was lost to injury Scarbrough was signed and suddenly the Lions rushing attack found a little life.
Now Scarbrough wasn’t the second coming of Derrick Henry, nor will he be, but he was productive and actually made a nice combination with Kerryon Johnson in the last couple of games when Johnson returned from injury.
But now as we look forward to next season, the Lions have added D’Andre Swift with their second-round pick in the draft as well as two maulers at guard in the form of Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg. On paper, the Lions are a team that is ready to run the ball.
The afterthought for most people was running back Jason Huntley in the fifth round. This is the pick that I have most often heard fans say they don’t understand. Let me enlighten you. Huntley plain and simple is a big play waiting to happen.
I was surprised by the pick myself, but when you consider his value without taking carries away from Kerryon and D’Andre, it starts to become more clear. Huntley will almost certainly win the job as the Lions kick-off returner and given any tiny creases he will make opponents learn his name quickly.
He also has outstanding hands. Whether he catches the ball out of the backfield or lines up in the slot, which will add depth and speed to the passing game, given the ball in space Huntley will make big plays. He may not be a star, but he will be a valuable contributor early in his career.
When you consider how the Lions have improved the offense on paper, this is a team that has a chance to be explosive. Especially since Matthew should be more comfortable and play even better next season.
Consider this little nugget; last season with an inconsistent ground game, the Lions again leaned on Matthew’s talented right arm. In the process, the long ball returned to the Motor City and Matthew executed it like a star. The proof being that his 8.6 yards per attempt were the second highest in the NFL, yet he still completed 64.3 percent of his passes.
In a league where offense is revered and given every advantage possible, the Lions might finally have enough firepower to raise eyebrows and perhaps win some shootouts.
Defense is still incredibly important. Those who play well on that side of the ball tend to win consistently and usually give themselves an opportunity to contend. The Lions efforts on defense will need to be much better than last season, but if the offense takes the next step as Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia seem to be planning, then it will probably be asked to carry this franchise.
The question then is; how far can it carry them?