2012 Lions Recap:
Before I get into what lies ahead, let’s recap the Lions’ 2012 season:
Calvin Johnson, a.k.a. Megatron, set a record for most receiving yards in one season with 1,964, just 36 shy of the legendary 2,000 mark. Matthew Stafford passed for 4,967 yards, only 33 shy of the legendary 5,000 mark. Other than that, the season was dismal. Our record was 4-12, which doesn’t accurately represent how good the Lions really were. In 2012, we had 11 losses by 10 or less, 9 by less than one score, and 5 by a FG or less, and 2 in OT. The silver and blue looked like a college team, in the sense that the Lions (minus Stafford, Megatron, and Jason Hanson) would play 48 minute games, and the final 12 would be mostly controlled by the opposing team. They sometimes made blunders and couldn’t capitalize. But, neither could we, and that hurt us. In 2012, the Lions were ranked number 2 in passing, with 307.9 yards per game. But, we were ranked 23rd in rushing, 14th in opponent’s passing yards and 16th in opponents rushing yards. These are not exactly playoff contention numbers, but not the worst either. We had a shot, we just blew 11 games. Instead of finishing 15-1, 13-3, or even 9-7, we finished 4-12, with a bunch of holes.
Detroit Lions 2013 Season Preview:
Thankfully, we have filled some of those holes. 2013 is a new year, and a promising one. I am not predicting playoffs, but close, very close. Right now, the Lions are 2-1 going into the final preseason game against the Bills, after a huge drubbing of the Patriots. But then, the preseason almost never plays out like the actual season or postseason does. Our divisional games are spread out this year. We play our division rivals in weeks 1, 4, 5, 10, 13, and 17. We open and close the season against the Vikings, who are expected to finish last in the NFC Norris Division. Our bye week is right in the middle at week 9, and we have the Packers for the annual Thanksgiving Day Classic at Ford Field. The Lions also take on the AFC North, as well as the NFC East this year; a tough schedule for any team. No one wants to look at their schedule and see the Ravens, Steelers, Giants, Redskins, Cowboys, and Eagles on it, especially when you are in a division that includes the Packers and Bears. All that’s missing are Patriots and Niners! But, the Lions are determined this year and will be tough to play. For a complete season schedule, please visit the team’s official website: Detroit Lions 2013 Season Schedule.
Players to watch in 2013:
There are a few players to watch. Stafford fell just shy of 5,000 yards last year, but he threw for just over 1 interception per game. If he cannot bring up his accuracy (2012 and career are 59.8% completion percentage) and reduce the amount of interceptions, do not be surprised to see our third-string QB, Kellen Moore, take over at helm. This preseason, he has out-shined all other QB’s at training camp going 20 for 30 with 223 yards passing, no interceptions, no sacks, and a passer rating of 110.8.
Remember the biggest draft bust ever for the Lions, Joey Harrington? Reggie Bush was looking to turn out the same for the Saints. The former USC standout could not get it together in his five seasons in the Big Easy. But, in the last two in Miami, he rushed for over 2,000 yards total. He showed off his receiving skills so well, that the Lions picked him up as soon as free agency kicked in this last spring. He gives us a ground threat, as well as another receiving target for defenses to be wary of, other than Megatron. Speaking of Johnson, his current knee injury was just a contusion. He was lobbying to play in the final preseason game, but the Lions coaching staff could have thought it was best to have him sit one more, just for safety’s sake. They could have also used the time to work with the reserve receivers a bit more, too. This is good because they need to find a diamond in the rough to match up with Johnson.
I don’t want to anger the big guy, but he needs to ease up a bit. His personal foul penalties, especially blatant ones like stomping on an opposing player when he is down, only hurt us. This is not the era of Dick Butkus and Alex Karras, where that could be done and not cost a team. In today’s game, that is out the window. Also, watch David Akers, the “replacement” for Jason Hanson, if you could ever have a true replacement. It’s not easy replacing a legend; ask any Lions running back immediately after Barry Sanders retired. Look for Akers to prove himself to Detroit fans, just as Hanson had to when he replaced Eddie Murray.
We have a lot of rookies in key positions this year still on the roster before the final cuts. These include Corey Fuller, WR out of Virginia Tech and TE’s Joseph Fauria and Michael Williams out of UCLA and Alabama, respectively. Central Michigan University guard Darren Keyton, OT LaAdrian Waddle from Texas Tech, Ezekiel Ansah, DE from BYU and DE Devin Taylor from South Carolina are other Lions’ newbies. More rookie contributors could be John Drew and Xavier Proctor, both DT’s from North Carolina Central. Florida A&M LB Brandon Hepburn, Darius Slay, the corner from Mississippi State and punters Blake Clingan and Sam Martin from Central Florida and Appalachian State, respectively, round up the rest of the rookies. Martin is expected to handle the kickoffs. The amount of inexperienced players bothers me. But fortunately, not all of them will be starting out as first-stringers. Expect to see Fuller, Ansah, Taylor, and Slay quite a bit, with the others relegated to second or third-string slots.
Swami’s final say on the Lions this season…
Everyone picks the Lions to go 8-8 or 9-7 and finish 3rd in the division. I think that the experts are right this time, except the Lions will finish second in the division behind Green Bay. There are too many obstacles for Lions to overcome: a young offensive line the coaches seem unsure of, a newly retooled defense with a lot of rookies in starting positions and the loss of Jason Hanson as the veteran leader are just some of them.
Calvin Johnson may have a huge impact like last season, which he played most of with broken fingers! But, don’t expect another performance like his again this year. In the NFL, unlike in baseball, huge performances like that are usually followed up by a slightly above-average season for the player. Look back and compare Dan Marino’s stats in 1984 and 1985. More recently, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning – still superstars, but not chasing a record. Though with Megatron and his desire, you know it probably killed him to be just shy of a number thought unreachable by any receiver. This year is for experience for new guys and to work out some kinks. Expect a playoff run in two years. Final prediction: 8-8, second place in NFC North. This is because we have one of the toughest schedules in football this year, a rebuilt defense, and some indecision about the offensive line. If we do make the playoffs, it is because of the NFC North’s schedule this year, and that everyone else in the division gets beat up.
NOTE: As I was posting this, the score came in from the final preseason game. Lions 35, Bills 13. More Stafford woes (1 for 6, 12 yards, one INT). Kellen Moore threw his first INT, and Reggie Bush did not play. I wish we played the AFC East in the regular season because we outscored the Jets, Patriots, and Bills in the preseason 101-39.