Detroit’s Calvin Johnson had 96 receptions for 1,681 yard and 16 touchdowns in 2011.
Everette Brown, DE (free agency)
Jacob Lacey, CB (free agency)
James Bryant, FB (free agency)
Riley Reiff, OT (draft)
Ryan Broyles, WR (draft)
Dwight Bentley, CB (draft)
Eric Wright, CB (free agency)
After making the playoffs for the first time since 1999, there is warranted hope in Detroit for the Lions that hasn’t been present in 14 seasons.
After starting the 2011 season 5-0, the Lions finished 10-6 and secured the final wild-card spot in the NFC. However, they lost to the New Orleans Saints in the wild-card round 45-28.
The Lions started the season strong, but won just five of their last 11 games to narrowly reach the playoffs. While a playoff berth is something to celebrate for this team, I think this year’s team will make sure to avoid limping into the playoffs and, instead, shape their own destiny by finishing strong and competing for an NFC North title.
Despite the blowout loss in the playoffs, the Lions have made progress and, finally, have franchise players who can lead this team.
The biggest move off the offseason thus far for the Lions has been resigning wide receiver Calvin Johnson to an eight-year extension. Johnson had a breakout year for the Lions in 2011 as quarterback Matthew Stafford played in all 16 games.
Now that these two have a full year together under their belts, I expect more magic. With that being said, I also expect Johnson to get a lot more double and triple coverage from teams in 2012.
This means wide receivers Nate Burleson and Titus Young, among others, will need to step up and give Stafford some check-down options.
As far as the draft goes, I like most of the Lions’ picks. They picked up Iowa’s Riley Reiff, who will no doubt be replacing Jeff Backus in the near future as his career is nearing its end.
The Lions also addressed their cornerback problems drafting Louisiana-Lafayette’s Dwight Bentley and signing Jacob Lacey in free agency.
These two, along with a healthy Louis Delmas (S) and a resigned Stephen Tulloch (LB) will help the Lions move up from the 23-ranked defense they were in 2011. Giving up an average of 367.6 yards per game killed any chance this team had at being Super Bowl contenders.
We know Matthew Stafford and company are capable of putting up points, but in the circumstances when they faced a stout defense, the Lions defense could not bail out the struggling offense.
The draft pick that surprised me was Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles. The Lions have been criticized in the past for taking wide receiver after wide receiver in the draft. So what do they do with their second pick? Get a WR they do not need. My guess is Broyles is more of a developmental pick who will replace Burleson in the coming years, but I think the Lions should have used that pick to upgrade a position more in need.
The offseason has been an absolute nightmare for the Lions.
Three players have been arrested this offseason for the Lions resulting in five arrests.
Running back Mikel Leshoure and defensive tackle Nick Fairley were each arrested twice and offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath also was arrested. All arrests were for marijuana possession.
Mikel Leshoure suffers the biggest setback as he missed the entire 2011 season with a torn Achilles tendon and, now, will be suspended for the first two games of the 2012 season.
While off-the-field issues are usually a guarantee in the NFL, it’ll be benificial for the Lions if they get it out of the way before the season starts.
A young team who is just getting used to the idea of winning on a consistent basis does not need distractions, especially a rookie who has yet to see action in the NFL.
2012 prediction: Lions (12-4), win the NFC North, but lose in the NFC conference championship.
Many experts are saying the Lions can compete for a Super Bowl this year. However, I think they still are one to two years away from really becoming quality contenders. While New Orleans will be out of the playoff picture this year — especially if they can’t reach a deal with quarterback Drew Brees — the New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears all are quality teams who could outmatch the Lions.
This team is on the cusp of turning the corner and being a regular contender, but the team will have to wait another year for a shot at the Super Bowl.