31 Days, 31 Teams: The Detroit Lions
By Jeff Falconio
August is here and with the Brewers folding up earlier than anticipated, it's time to start thinking football. Every day this month we'll preview a different team in the NFL and of course along the way we'll feed your Packers appetite. To give it a real feeling of anticipation, we're going to start with the worst teams and work our way up to the best teams. As we all know, there's no doubt who the worst team is.
After years of futility at the hands of former general manager Matt Millen, the Detroit Lions finally started to make significant changes in both the front office and on the field. The Lions aren't likely to repeat the 0-16 debacle of 2008 but can the Lions be competitive?
Martin Mayhew takes over for Millen and spent a good part of the offseason upgrading the NFL's worst defense. The Lions added Phillip Buchanon in the secondary, Grady Jackson up front and beefed up the linebackers with Julian Peterson and Larry Foote. Offensively the Lions have two rising stars to build around. Third year wide receiver Calvin Johnson had a breakout year while running back Kevin Smith gained 976 yards on the ground during his rookie campaign. Detroit drafted pass catching tight end Brandon Pettigrew and signed Bryant Johnson to be the number two WR. The real story of the offseason was using the first overall pick in the draft on quarterback Matthew Stafford, a player the Lions are hoping can duplicate the success of Atlanta's Matt Ryan. The Lions have a new coach in Jim Schwartz who probably will not be in over his head considering one win, any win, will be an improvement over last year.
Burning Question: Who starts at quarterback? Stafford will battle with Daunte Culpepper in training camp for the number one spot at QB. As stated, the Lions are hoping to catch the same magic the Falcons caught with Ryan last year but common sense tells us most rookie QBs flame out in their first year so the safer choice would be Culpepper.
The Lions will be better than last year if: Smith piles up 1,200 rushing yards while Calvin Johnson puts up another 1,300 yard season. With a solid output from both the pressure will be taken off of whoever wins the quarterback job. The new parts on defense come together and that helps Detroit take advantage of a soft schedule that includes St. Louis, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Four wins would not be out of the realm of possibility.
The Lions will be worse than last year if: The NFL adds a 17th game.
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