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Lions vs Dolphins Pregame Week-16

A day after Christmas and the Lions will either give the Detroit fans a reason to cheer, or a reason to wipe more tears. Much of this depends on who Jim Schwartz plays at quarterback.

The Tale of Two Quarterbacks...

Shaun Hill: In the first two drives he may look good, but keep in mind that these are usually the plays that Linehan has scripted to start the game. After those plays run out, Hill always reverts back to a very conservative quarterback who refuses to throw more than seven yards down field. The only time he comes out of that shell is when they are behind and forced to pass down field while the defense is in more of a prevent defense. During the middle 40 minutes of the game, when Hill refuses to throw more than seven yards, the defense will cheat up on the line. This allows the linebackers and safeties to fill any running lanes much quicker.

Knowing Hill will not throw deep, and playing close to the line of scrimmage, the defense only needs to focus on the running game and short routes. Thus the running game is shut down and the passing game is sporadic. For 40 minutes the Lions offense will sputter and drives will end too soon, not allowing the Lions defense to get enough rest.

Then in the fourth quarter, the Lions defense is too tired to get any continuous pressure on opposing quarterbacks and the Lions fall behind. Then the opposing defense will look to protect a late lead, play a prevent scheme, and since the Lions are now playing catch-up, Hill is forced to throw down field. This is when Hill pads most of his throwing stats.

Drew Stanton: Not a very accurate quarterback when throwing the ball more than ten yards down field. The farther he throws the ball, the more he is likely to miss by. So why use him right? For one, you use him because he is "willing" to throw down field. Whether he is any good at it or not, the fact he is willing to throw it down field creates a threat to the defense of being beaten deep. This forces the defense to back off the line of scrimmage a little, causing them to take longer to fill running lanes.

Then there is the fact that Stanton is a decent threat to take off running with the ball on any play. This forces the defense to worry about him keeping the ball, so they cannot simply key on the running backs. Not being able to focus on the Lions RBs, and needing to play back a little, the Lions running backs suddenly find themselves with more room to run. This is why the Lions running game has come to life in the three games that Stanton has started at quarterback.

Since the Lions running game has come to life, it no longer forces the quarterback to throw the ball much, explaining why Stanton has so many less yards per game. The lesser completion percentage simply comes from his incompletions while throwing down field. The incompletions hurt, but the fact that they help open up the running game makes it more than worth it.

Because the running game is working, the Lions have a few more sustained drives in the middle of the game, giving the defense more time to rest. This allows them to still have the energy to pressure a quarterback in the fourth quarter. More sustained drives, a better running game and more pressure on opposing quarterbacks late in games leads to victories.

The Coaches Decision....

Schwartz has already stated that he will not name a starting quarterback until game time Sunday. Though Hill is actually a better passing quarterback than Stanton is, it is Stanton's other tangibles that gives the Lions a much stronger chance for a win.

Yet even if Schwartz does choose Hill to start, there is one reason to hope still. Though Hill is not a running threat, he can become one. Hill is not a bad runner with the ball. He simply doesn't like to run. Just like he does not like to pass more than seven yards. If Linehan would give Hill a few keepers to place him as a running threat, and force him to throw the ball down field some times, he would be a better quarterback to have under center than Stanton.

The problem is that after so many games with Hill as the quarterback, if he was going to start throwing down field, he would have done it by now. I don't believe he will do it and I don't believe he will run much. If Hill is placed under center, the Lions running game will disappear again and the defensive line will once again be too exhausted to pressure the quarterback in the fourth quarter.

The Dolphins....

Miami is 7-7 this season. They have only lost one game on the road and only won one game at home. The Lions are playing in Miami. With the Dolphins home woes, and the road loss streak off the Lions backs, this is prime opportunity for the Lions to win a third game in a row. But the Lions offensive line will have to play well because Miami is one of the better pass rushing teams in the NFL.

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