3 reasons not to give up on Lions
Okay, maybe Detroit’s hopes of a playoff berth are slimmer than a malnourished credit card, but that’s not what I mean. What I should have said is that, through all the ups and downs of the last few years, there are things to be optimistic about.
Let’s look at what the Lions are doing well.
1. They are defensively sound.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin does a great job. He doesn’t have the highest quality talent to work with, but he gets a lot from what he has. He lost his top four interior defenders from last year (don’t forget C.J. Mosely and George Johnson both played well, too), as well as PFF All-Pro linebacker DeAndre Levy to injury. Despite that, the Lions are still a top-half defense, and when it comes to run defense, Detroit ranks No. 9 overall this year.
2. They have young talent.
The Lions have a lot of good, young players, but a minor issue is that most of that talent seems to be located in two areas: the backfield and at linebacker.
Rookie HB Ameer Abdullah has been better than advertised. That may seem like a strange statement for a second-round pick with 115 yards through four games at 3.4 a pop, but that’s not his fault. He’s running behind the 27th ranked run blocking O-line and is starting to avoid more tackles, including four against Seattle on MNF. Add the emerging Theo Riddick (a nightmare for linebackers to cover out of the backfield) and rookie FB Michael Burton (our second-ranked fullback) and you have a unit that can weather the loss of Joique Bell.
Linebacker Josh Bynes came into the league in 2011, so he’s not really “young,” but I list him as such due to limited use. He moved from Baltimore two years ago (after about 200 snaps a year), but didn’t get much playing time with Detroit until now. With the Ravens, he usually played well on the occasions he was asked to start, or given extended playing time. He’s a stout run defender (+4.8 grade so far), but does have mental lapses in coverage. With more opportunity, I believe his overall ability should win through.
Finally, Travis Lewis can be a super two-down player, as he showed again last night. He recorded three stops, including the great play where he decked Seattle FB Derrick Coleman and dropped HB Thomas Rawls for a one yard loss.
3. They’re following the plan.
Detroit had a cash limit for Ndamukong Suh, and wouldn’t move from it. They knew Nick Fairley was a talented risk, and stayed away from overpaying. When they signed a veteran, Haloti Ngata, they knew he was still a good player. They understood the O-line needed work, knew there would be pain in getting to the next level, and did it anyway. They have not panicked, and I don’t think they will. Things may get worse before they get better, but this is nowhere close to the worst team in the league, despite their 0-4 record.