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Editor’s note: Over the course of the summer, Next Impulse Sports will be releasing NFL team previews every Tuesday and Thursday. Check back on Thursday for the Minnesota Vikings Edition and access the Green Bay Packers Edition here.

Today: The Detroit Lions

Last Year: 7-9 (3rd place in NFC North)

lions reaction

The Detroit Lions may have hit a new all-time low in 2013. Sure, the season wasn’t nearly as painful as their winless campaign in 2008, but for the Lions last season, they couldn’t have asked for an easier path to the postseason. The Bears and Packers were without their starting quarterbacks for a large portion of their seasons and the Lions held a late-lead in the division.

But, instead of capitalizing, they dropped six of their last seven games, eventually falling to third place in the NFC North. Jim Schwartz — after five years at the helm — was canned following the season.

Last Year’s Stud: Calvin Johnson

Matt Stafford might be the hardest quarterback to get a handle on. His sidearm, off-balance throws often end up out of his receivers’ reach, yet he still manages to put up gaudy numbers. Last season, Stafford tossed 29 touchdown passes and passed for 4,650 yards.

The biggest reason for Stafford’s success: Calvin Johnson. In 14 games last year, Johnson caught 84 balls for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns. If you’re ever wondering why Stafford’s stats are so inflated, take a look at this touchdown:


Runner-up: Reggie Bush

Last Year’s Surprise: Joique Bell

Reggie Bush handled the majority of the carries, but Bell still managed to get 166 carries on the season. Bush hit the home runs, but Bell stayed healthy the entire season and gave the Lions a dependable second option all season long. Though he had his fair share of fumbles, Bell racked up eight touchdowns and nearly four yards per carry.

Runner-up: Kris Durham

Last Year’s Disappointment: Passing Defense

With Suh manning the interior, Detroit’s defense was magnificent against the run, ranking in at sixth. But the Lions had their fair share of difficulties when opposing teams aired it out. The Lions finished the season ranked 23rd against the pass, as opposing quarterbacks had no trouble dissecting Detroit’s defense, averaging nearly 250 yards through the air.

Runner-up: Jim Schwartz


Draft Class

Cornerback was the most pressing area for the Lions to address in the draft, but, instead, they decided to bolster their already-potent passing attack. With the 10th overall pick, the Lions selected Eric Ebron out of North Carolina, making their scary passing offense that much more scary. Ebron is listed at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds. He’s fast and knows how to catch passes. In his last season at North Carolina, Ebron racked up 62 catches for 973 yards. In Detroit, he’ll be lining up in an offense that already features Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. I like his odds to dominate.

Other notable pick: Kyle Van Noy

This Year’s Stud: Golden Tate

Calvin Johnson will have the better season — he’s the best in the league at his position. But, for the sake of writing about someone else, let’s take a look at Tate who is coming over from the Super Bowl champs.

In Seattle last season, Tate hauled in 64 balls thrown his way for five touchdowns and nearly 900 yards. Expect those numbers to skyrocket in 2014. With Johnson attracting double-coverage on nearly every snap, Tate should have plenty of room to operate. If Tate is left in isolation, he’s a pain to deal with, as he thrives in space and relies on making people miss after catching the ball. In 2012, 52 of his 64 receptions came from either behind the line of scrimmage or within 10 yards of it. On those plays, he averaged over 10 yards per catch.

Runner-up: Reggie Bush

This Year’s Surprise: Kyle Van Noy


He’s a second-round selection and he played at BYU, so he might surprise some folks when he makes his NFL-debut in September, but Kyle Van Noy should find himself starting in his first season. He’s versatile — he can rush the passer and drop back into coverage — and should help bolster a porous run defense.

Runner-up: Rashean Mathis

This Year’s Disappointment: Joseph Fauria

Someone in this pass-heavy offense is going to have a down year. My bet is on Fauria. With Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Reggie Bush, and rookie Eric Ebron occupying the majority of the offense, Fauria is bound to see less time on the field and fewer passes thrown his way. Fauria still might play a significant role in the red zone though. Last season, he only caught 30 passes, but seven went for touchdowns. At 6-foot-7, he is a matchup nightmare, but his touchdowns to receptions ratio probably won’t continue at last season’s rate.

Runner-up: Brandon Pettigrew

Fantasy outlook:

Draft early: Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush

Good value in the middle rounds: Matt Stafford, Golden Tate

Don’t Draft: Defense/Special Teams, Brandon Pettigrew

What Vegas is saying (LVH sports book): 8 wins

What We’re Saying: 9-7 (3rd place in NFC North)


It’s not like the talent isn’t there — the Lions have a legitimate offense brewing in Detroit. With pass catchers like Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, a potential superstar tight end in Eric Ebron, and a versatile, explosive running back like Reggie Bush, the Lions should light-up opposing scoreboards. But the defense is still lacking playmakers in the secondary, and Matthew Stafford hasn’t shown a willingness to develop any sort of consistency with his mechanics. Until then, the Lions should remain a scary team on paper, but, in reality, a team that will hover around .500. Caldwell might be the anti-Schwartz, but it’s hard to place the Lions above the Bears and the Packers in the North.

[genericon icon=twitter]Follow Sean Wagner-McGough on Twitter @seanjwagner

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