Detroit Lions ’10 Revisited: Tempering the Consistent Disappointment with the Gleam of Hope
4 January 2011 § 2 Comments
The Detroit Lions, who finished the ’08 and ’09 seasons with a combined 2 wins, managed to pull off four straight victories to end the 2010 season with a record of 6-10. How many franchises would look at a 6-10 finish as a sign of hope? Granted there are worse teams, but no other team would even begin to brag about a six win season.
I feel compelled to point out this context to temper the hope I feel after that modest winning streak. Then, of course, there are more serious problems than a history of failure. Most notably, the franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford just finished his second year and still only has 13 career starts, including only three starts this year. Not only has his progress been set back a year, but with serious injuries to both shoulders, he may never make it back to 100%.
On the other hand, the Lions managed to win games even when their third string quarterback was in. That gives some credence to the Lions finally having a good coaching staff in place. In fact, the Lions’ entire roster is devoid of much top-level talent, which means those wins are a great credit to the coaches.
And the brightest spot of all is the massive glare of the three hundred pound rookie on the defensive line: Ndamukong Suh.
QBs – Stafford, the hope of the Lions, started only three games and won one; and even those three games produced mixed results. On the bright side, he passed 6 touchdowns to only 1 interception; however, he didn’t manage many yards and produced only a dismal five and a half yard average. His best game did come against the Jets defense though.
Veteran backup Shaun Hill served capably, starting 10 games and winning three of those. He threw for almost 2700 yards, and finishing with a 16-12 touchdown to interception ratio. Third string quarterback Drew Stanton, second round pick in ’08 from Michigan State, started three consecutive games, winning two (and should have won the other against Chicago but for bad officiating). He racked up 780 yards and had 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
RBs – First round rookie Jahvid Best started the first nine games, but was benched in favor of veteran Maurice Morris. Best peaked in week 2 when he accumulated 252 yards from scrimmage; he never came close to duplicating those numbers. In fact, that one game accounted for a fourth of his entire production for the year. He finished with 1042 yards from scrimmage evenly split between rushing and receiving. The main reason he was benched was probably his average yards per carry: at 3.2, it just wasn’t good enough. A lot of blame has to go to the poor-to-mediocre offensive line. Morris, who started the final seven games, only had a 3.7 average, and finished the season with just over 500 yards from scrimmage. At 31, the career backup is not the answer to the Lions’ rushing woes moving forward.
WRs – Calvin Johnson, number 81 at right, is the lone Lions’ offensive player to be named a starter in the ProBowl. Despite the quarterback carousel and missing the last game of the season, Johnson gained 1120 yards on 77 catches. His 12 receiving touchdowns are tied for second most in the NFL. Second string Nate Burleson was productive, but suffered from poor hands all season.
TEs – The tight end combo of Pettigrew and Scheffler accounted for 116 receptions for 1100 yards and 5 touchdowns. The chunk of that went to second year player Pettigrew (71 for 722 and 4 td), who started every game this year.
OL – Left tackle Jeff Backus and center Dominic Raiola continue to cement the Lions’ offensive line, which was a good thing years ago. Both players entered the league in 2001 and have started nearly every game since though. Backus especially would be better at right tackle if Detroit could only find somebody to take the blind side position. Peterman and Sims started every game at the guard positions this year, which finally gives a bit of stability to the position for the Lions, if not strength. The addition of Tony Ugoh from the Colts may go to something, but he didn’t start any this year for the Lions. And current right tackle and first round bust Gosder Cherilus was alternately benched or injured this year.
DL – The lone defensive player for the Lions starting in this year’s ProBowl is the rookie Ndamukong Suh. Already, in his rookie season, he is arguably the best DT in the league (Ngata and Wilfork might take offense to that). Suh started every game and finished the year with 66 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. The other three starting linemen added 15.5 more sacks: DE Cliff Avril, DT Corey Williams, and DE Turk McBride. At 24 and 25, the ends may be able to improve on their efforts next season.
LBs – A weakness to be sure, the linebacking corps performed adequately at best: the veteran Julian Peterson, second-year MLB DeAndre Levy, and whatever other linebacker happened to start on the other side.
DBs – Rookie CB (and sometimes safety) Amari Spievey offers some hope, but played inconsistently, occasionally looking a bit loss on the field. Second year strong safety Louis Delmas is the best player in the Lions’ secondary, which is equal parts compliment to the man and insult to the team. Second year cornerback Alphonso Smith led the team with 5 interceptions, but frequently blew coverages and was targeted by opposing quarterbacks. Nathan Vasher had little impact after coming over from Chicago. And starting corner Chris Houston was the invisible man in Lion games.
Will the Detroit Lions continue to let themselves be victimized by their past ineptitude? Or will the Man Named Suh lead the worst professional sports team of the 21st century in a new direction? Over the decade, Detroit has gone 39-121, with a 24% winning percentage.
The Lions are nothing if not consistent. With problems at quarterback, running back, offensive line, linebackers, and secondary, the short answer is no – they will not turn things around. But at least we’ll get a few more years of seeing Suh take out the Lions’ collective frustrations on opposing quarterbacks (before he, and probably CJ before him, go in hunt of a winning team once their contracts expire).