2016 Record: 9-7, Second Place in the NFC North
The Detroit Lions may wind up being one of those teams that saw a surge in 2016, only to fall back a bit and regress this upcoming season.
Detroit managed to win a number of close games last year — six of the Lions’ nine wins in 2016 were by four points or less.
Most of this can be pointed at the defense, which was good… not great.
The Lions finished 18th in the NFL in total yards allowed (5,676) and weren’t particularly effective against either the run or the pass.
Most of the work had to be done on offense. And at least quarterback Matthew Stafford seemed to perform better without wide receiver Calvin Johnson than before.
Adding linebacker Jarrad Davis via the NFL Draft should help the defense, and the move gives defensive end Ezekiel Ansah some much-needed help up front.
But the Lions reached for cornerback Teez Tabor in Round 2, who may easily wind up being one of the bigger draft busts of this year’s class.
Stafford managed to spread the ball around nicely last season, en route to a 4,327-yard campaign. A diverse passing attack will have to be at the staple of what Detroit does on offense this year, and the Lions are perfectly equipped to handle this.
Wide receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones could have big seasons for the Lions this year, and Detroit needs all the contribution it can get from these two.
The Lions had zero running game last season and didn’t bother addressing this need via the NFL Draft, despite a deep draft class.
A constant rotation of Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner didn’t alleviate the loss of featured tailback Ameer Abdullah in 2016.
Detroit’s secondary is also a problem — one which is magnified by the lack of a true pass rush up front. Look for that to be an issue.
Can Abdullah overcome last year’s setback? He’s going to be the starter this season, so at least he’ll have his chances. And adding former Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang helps a lot.
Davis and/or Ansah must force the pressure up front. Not doing so will expose a weak secondary, which could prove to be problematic over the course of the upcoming year.