The Lions have hit the half way point in the season with a very strong 6-2 record. There has been a lot of good things happening this year for the Lions but there are some problems too. Here is my analysis on how it all shapes up.
QUARTERBACK (Grade = B+)
Matthew Stafford, has given the fans a bit of a roller coaster ride this year. In the first half of games, he has not looked the best. Often he has come out and looked lost, rushed or rattled. Sometime around half time Stafford seems to break loose and show the fans why he was the Lions number one pick a few years ago.
After 8 games, Stafford has the fifth best quarterback rating, sixth most yards, second most touchdowns and fifth fewest picks. Those are some pretty impressive numbers for a guy who has not played very good almost half the time he has been out there.
RUNNING BACK (Grade = C-)
For the most part, the Detroit Lions have had very little running game this year. In his 6 games, Jahvid Best only had one good game when he busted out a couple of long runs. After leaving with a concussion, Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams have filled in fairly well, but they simply lack the threat of being dangerous.
Many would give the Running Backs a worse grade than I would, but I dont put all the blame for the lack of running game on them. I think they are in a scheme that has set them up for failure and they have done better than I would expect running out of the shotgun draw so often.
RECEIVER (Grade = B)
Lets face it. If it wasnt for Calvin Johnson destroying his competition, this unit would be under performing in a big way. Megatron has 11 touchdowns in 8 games. If he reproduces his first half stats, he will end up with more than 90 catches, 1600 yards, and over 20 TDs.
On the other hand, Nate Burleson has been a far lesser factor than anyone would have expected. With only 26 receptions for 245 yards and 1 touchdown, I think it is safe to give him a failing grade so far.
Titus Young was injured most of the pre-season and that took its toll. Rookie receivers usually dont have huge first seasons anyway. But he ended the first half on a good note with 4 grabs for 66 yards and his first touchdown of his NFL career.
TIGHT END (Grade = A-)
Let us face it. Pettigrew and Scheffler are a force to recon with. Brandon Pettigrew is on pace for over 80 catches, 600 yards and 4 touchdowns. Scheffler has not gotten nearly as many receptions as his teammate, but he gets them when they count. In the end-zone! With only 9 catches on the year, he has three TDs.
OFFENSIVE LINE (Grade = C )
I almost wish I didnt have to include this unit in my assessment, as I know most will not agree with me. Personally I think this unit has done a fine job this year. There has been a few moments in the season where they simply fall apart, but for the most part they have kept Stafford on his feet.
Stafford has been sacked 16 times in 8 games. THe Lions are on pace to give up 5 more sacks than last year. But that is not all on the offensive line. There have been plenty of times when Stafford has held the ball too long, or ran away from a secure pocket and drawn pressure to him. They have been far from great, but they have not been completely horrible either. Like any average to decent line, they will have moments when they collapse.
When it comes to run blocking, they have not been horrible there either. The problem is more on the scheme than anything else. I have seen the O-Line open holes only to see that hole filled with a linebacker. Often they are trying to run block from the shotgun. That is extremely difficult to run block against a full out pass rush.
DEFENSIVE LINE (Grade = A )
After 8 games this unit has the Lions ranked 3rd with 24 sacks. They are on pace to get 4 more sacks than they had in 2010.
Some complain the Lions D-Line has given up too many rushing yards. That si not the linemen's fault. Their job is to create havoc on their way to the quarterback and to try and get the RB if he gets the ball. It is the linebackers responsibility to fill the gaps and stop the run on a consistent basis. The Lions D-line has been fearsome to opposing QBs and that is what they are all about.
Ndamukong Suh has gotten some back-lashing for his lack of output. Let me assure you, Suh has been a force far more than his numbers show. Yes he only has 3 sacks and 24 tackles. Both far less than what he would have had last year. But play after play, Suh is doing what his first job is to do. Wreak absolute Chaos in the opposing team's backfield! He is often taking on double and sometimes even triple teams and still forcing his will. He may not be getting the sacks, but he is a major reason the Lions as a team have 24 sacks!
LINEBACKER (Grade = B )
Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Justin Durant, and Bobby Carpenter have been very good. Between them, they have 161 tackles in the 8 games and that is not bad! They have done a very good job of covering on passing plays and making tackles. Their only flaw has been in the few break downs on filling gaps or over pursuing. Compared to what we have been seeing at linebacker in recent years, I cant complain a single bit to this crew giving up a big play now and then.
CORNER BACK (Grade = B-)
The Lions are sixth against the pass. That means this unit has been doing a very good job. Chris Houston has far surpassed my expectations for him this year as he has had 4 interceptions for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns. Eric Wright has not been so bad either with 2 picks of his own. The only reason they do not get a higher grade is because their jobs are made so much easier with the pressure the D-line creates.
SAFETY (Grade = B+)
Amari Spievey has been the biggest surprise of the year. Last year this guy could not tackle, used bad angles and simply put, he was terrible as a safety. In 2011, he has done a fine job of run support, and has three picks of his own.
Louis Delmas has as always been strong in run support. He does not sit back waiting for the ball carrier to make a move then try to react to it. He fires himself in like a missle and forces the RB to react to him. His only flaw has been his lacking in pass coverage. Delmas has zero interceptions and only three passes defended.
KICKERS (Grade = B+)
Hanson is not flawless. He simply puts on an air that he can do no wrong. Hanson has converted 17 of his 18 field goal attempts, his only miss being one of his five attempts from 50+ yards out. But as I said, he is not flawless... Even with the new kick-off rules, Jason Hanson has not always been able to kick the ball deep enough into the end-zone that the returner will not try to make the Lions pay.
Donohue has been far from pro-bowl material, but he has been more than solid.
SPECIAL TEAMS COVERAGE (Grade = D )
THis has been a problem for the Lions this year. No consistency at all. One play they will cover great and pin their opponent deep. The next play they will allow a returned to run the ball back 50 yards and start their opponents in field goal range. Both Hanson and Donohue have made too many tackles this year and that is unacceptable.
COACHES (Grade = C+)
Cunningham has been very good. He has kept his defense consistent and seldom do they fall apart. His only problem is stubborness. At times when his defense cannot seem to generate enough pressure, he will not go to the blitz enough to make up the difference. He likes to rush with four linemen alone and will not give them help.
Linehan has been just the opposite. When you have as much talent as the Lions have, there simply is no excuse for the offense to come out flat almost every game. He insists on using the shotgun far too much and this only hurts the running game. More importantly however is his absolute refusal to use a lead blocker. I see no reason to never shift a TE inside to act as the fullback in lead blocking situations. Yet Linehan will not think of it. He rushes only one running back and he will live or die by that scheme. Simply put, the Lions offense has scored with top talent in spite of Linehan rather than because of his play calling or scheme.
Jim Schwartz has been decent. Nothing great and nothing bad. He has not shown me where he can out coach his opponent and he sees how bad the Lions offense has been in the first half, and yet he has not forced the issue with Linehan. I have yet to see him stick up for his players when the refs truly screw up a call. He yells from the sideline but then never says anything against the bad calls in public. The way I look at Schwartz, he is a mastermind in the front office type of work, but he has not shown me he is a very good game coach.
Ndamukong Suh's Sack List
Keep track of which quarterbacks Suh has faced and which ones he has taken down.
Keep track of which quarterbacks Suh has faced and which ones he has taken down.
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