NFL 2014 Preview – Detroit Lions

After another subpar season in Detroit, the Lions fired head coach Jim Schwartz.  Jim Caldwell takes the helm, and he will inherit an offense loaded with firepower.  But can quarterback Matthew Stafford limit his mistakes?  And will the defense be strong enough for this team to reach the postseason?

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After another subpar season in Detroit, the Lions fired head coach Jim Schwartz.  Jim Caldwell takes the helm, and he will inherit an offense loaded with firepower.  But can quarterback Matthew Stafford limit his mistakes?  And will the defense be strong enough for this team to reach the postseason?

Offensively, Caldwell and his staff plan to feature Stafford and the passing game.  That obviously begins by utilizing receiver Calvin Johnson to the max.  Johnson is unquestionably the top receiver in the game, and despite drawing double and triple teams, he consistently beats them.  He’s joined by free agent acquisition Golden Tate and Kevin Ogletree at receiver and tight ends Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and rookie Eric Ebron.

Stafford threw for 4,650 yards and 29 touchdowns, but also had 19 interceptions.  That number must shrink drastically for Detroit to have a chance in the NFC North.

The running back position is solid, with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell splitting reps.  Both Bush and Bell are elite receivers out of the backfield, which adds that much more dynamism to the passing game.

The biggest weak spot is the Lions’ offensive line.  Veteran center Dominic Raiola leads an otherwise average group.  Tackles Riley Reiff and LaAdrian Waddle and guards Rob Sims and Larry Warford round out the starting unit.

On defense, the team’s clear strength is its defensive front.  Tackle Ndamukong Suh is controversial, but he’s also among the best in the league.  Suh and Nick Fairley form a terrifying duo on the inside.  At defensive end, the Lions are relying on 2013 top 5 pick Ezekiel Ansah to make a big leap in his second year.  Jason Jones will likely start opposite Ansah.

The Lions should be improved at linebacker.  DeAndre Levy is the most talented player of the bunch.  Stephen Tulloch and Tahir Whitehead will also start, but look for rookie second-rounder Kyle Van Noy to emerge.

Detroit is also solid at the safety position.  Ex-Raven James Ihedigbo joins Glover Quin, one of the league’s more underrated players, on the backline.  However, corner is an extreme weak spot.  Veteran Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay are projected to start there.

Detroit currently stands at 33-1 to win the Super Bowl and 18-1 to win the NFC.  The Lions are projected to have the 16th most difficult schedule (.492 opponents’ win percentage).