Through the first six weeks of the season, the Lions have displayed flashes of playoff potential, most notably from their defense.
Coming into the 2014 season, many doubted the talent level of the defense and their ability to aid the Lions in their quest to make the playoffs. But it has not only been the defensive line and the linebacker corps that have stepped up, the secondary has also proved their worth in a rejuvenated defense lead by Teryl Austin, now the top defense in the league.
However, unlike what was expected prior to the 2014 regular season, the offense seems to be the weakness of the Detroit Lions squad.
Troubled Offensive Line: Last year, Detroit’s young offensive line quickly became one of the league’s biggest surprises. With the solid play of rookies Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle, and the consistent contribution of center Dominic Raiola, quarterback Matthew Stafford was given great protection to make open throws and easy decisions. This production not only offered Stafford some great opportunities, but also provided running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to have successful seasons, as Bush ran for over 1,000 yards, a milestone for Detroit backs in the last decade. However, the 2014 season has been a disappointment to say the least for the Lions’ offensive line. Stafford has already been sacked more times this year (21 times) than he was all of last year. Although questions have been raised about Stafford holding onto the ball too long, as well as injuries plaguing Detroit’s offense, it’s imperative that the offensive line improve as the season progresses. And similar to last season, this poor play by the offensive line has affected the Lions’ running game.
Faltering Running Game: The Lions’ running game has been a weakness of the offense this year, averaging only going for 23.3 yards per game. Much of these problems could be blamed on the offensive line, however, Joique Bell does not seem to have the same vision he did last season, and injuries to Bell, Bush, and Riddick have hurt production. Though, the Lions’ running game does seem to be picking up the pace, combining for 100 yards last Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Theo Riddick and George Winn have been seeing more carries in the midst of Detroit’s injury plague as well, helping provide solid depth and competitiveness throughout the running back corps.
Stafford’s Woes: Although Stafford has lowered his turnover ratio, part of that due to his much more conservative play, he has still missed many open receivers. At times when Calvin Johnson was on the field, he tended to force throws to Calvin and stare him down, instead of spreading the ball around. But while Johnson has suffered an ankle injury the past couple weeks, Stafford has done a nice job utilizing Golden Tate and even getting Theo Riddick involved in the passing game. But until the Lions get their number one receiver back, we will offer the excuse that the Lions’ offense have dealt with many injuries to the offensive line, running back corps, and receiving corps, thus affecting our man Stafford. Get well soon, Megatron.