Detroit Lions: 5 Reasons This Season Will Prove 2011 Was a Fluke
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The Detroit Lions turned a lot of heads in 2011 with a 10-6 record (most wins since 1995) and made the postseason for this first time since 1999.
Even better news for Detroit Lions was their franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford remained healthy for the whole year, producing one of the best statistical seasons in NFL history with over 5,000 passing yards and 40 plus touchdowns.
Meanwhile, his partner in crime Calvin Johnson produced one of the best statistical seasons for a receiver in NFL history, with 1,600 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
Moreover, with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson now locked up to play in Detroit for many more years to come, this offensive-passing juggernaut will be impressive.
The defense for Detroit Lions has been impressive as well forcing turnovers and turning those turnovers into points.
The defense was among the top-10 defenses in the NFL before injuries depleted the secondary towards the end of the regular season.
However bright the future looks for this promising Detroit Lions' team in 2012, here are five reasons the Lions will prove 2011 was just a fluke and will take a step back in 2012.
The Mediocre Offensive Line
The Detroit Offensive Line is just mediocre
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The Detroit Lions' offensive line in 2011 were very effective at pass-blocking but horrible at run-blocking.
According to Football Outsiders, the Detroit Lions were ranked 31st out of all 32 teams in the NFL in run-blocking efficiency for the 2011 season.
In contrast, the Detroit Lions were 10th in terms of pass-blocking. Matthew Stafford led the NFL in pass attempts with 663 in 2011.
Moreover, there were eight quarterbacks in the NFL in 2011 that had over 550 pass attempts including Stafford, and out of those eight signal callers, Stafford was sacked the most at 36 times.
If your team is going to go pass-heavy and not have more of a balance with the running game, you will risk more sacks, more interceptions (Stafford had 16, seventh-worst in the NFL), and injuries. Let's not forget Stafford played 13 games in 2009 and 2010 due to injuries.
Furthermore, here is what the Detroit Lions' offensive line looks like for 2012, according to Rotoworld. Jeff Backus (34 years old) is at left tackle, Rob Sims (28) is at left guard, Dominic Raiola (33) is at center, Stephen Peterman (30) is at right guard and Riley Reiff (23) is at right tackle.
With three out of the five starters in their 30s and on the downside of their career, this Detroit Lions line is getting old and physically broken down.
The top-10 pass-blocking is great for the Lions, but the age concern, and the horrid run-blocking ranks their offensive line mediocre, as they were projected to be18th in the 2012 offensive-line rankings according to Rotoworld.
The Terrible Run Defense
The Detroit Lions Run Defense was pathetic in 2012
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The Detroit Lions were a very aggressive defense tied for 10th in the NFL in sacks in 2011 with 41 thanks to the contributions of Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh and Stephen Tulloch.
In comparison, the Detroit Lions were tied for seventh in the NFL in forced fumbles with 17, and third in fumble recoveries with 13.
That, by definition, is a Detroit Lions' team that is very aggressive at getting to the quarterback and wreaking havoc in the backfield.
However, with such an overly aggressive defense and playing in the wide-nine scheme maximizes pass-rush but is susceptible in run-defense.
As a result, the Detroit Lions were 23rd in the NFL in 2011 against the run surrendering 128 yards a game, and 31st in the NFL in giving up five yards per carry.
According to the 2012 schedule, the Detroit Lions will have seven games against top-10, 2011 offensive running attacks: San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears twice and Minnesota Vikings twice.
Moreover, a healthy Nick Fairley should help the team form a pretty strong presence on the defensive-line front for Detroit Lions in 2012, but unless the team changes their defensive strategy, opposing offenses will exploit the Lions run-defense to control the clock and tempo of the game.
The Depleted Defensive Secondary
Chris Houston will have to lead this secondary in 2012
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The Detroit Lions were 22nd against the pass in 2011, and at one point was a top-10 pass defense through the first 10 games of the 2011 season, before the injuries to Chris Houston and Louis Delmas hit the team.
Nevertheless, the Detroit Lions were a very opportunistic defense as they were tied for fifth in the NFL in 2011 with 21 interceptions. They did give up a decent amount of touchdowns through the pass, surrendering 26.
According to NFL.com, the 2012 Detroit Lions will have Chris Houston at one cornerback spot and Aaron Barry at the other spot, with Alphonso Smith and Jacob Lacey getting in some time as well.
Houston is definitely the best playmaker in the secondary, with five interceptions in 2011 including two returned for touchdowns; however, losing starting cornerback Eric Wright (77 tackles and four interceptions in 2011) who left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers through NFL free-agency, hurts the depth badly.
In 2012, the Detroit Lions only have four games against the top-10 2011 offensive passing attacks in the NFL which will help benefit the secondary. That includes the Green Bay Packers twice, the Eagles, and Atlanta Falcons.
Moreover, the Detroit Lions are hoping Delmas and Houston will be healthy for all of the 2012 season. Injuries happen in the NFL to all teams and they are unpredictable, but losing a starter like Wright and not acquiring another starter in the offseason will doom this defensive secondary in 2012.
The Injury-Riddled Running Back Committee
Too many questions for this running back committee
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In 2011, the Detroit Lions leading rusher was Jahvid Best with 390 yards. That is terrible considering he only played in six games in 2012 due to a concussion.
Best is healthy for 2012, but is likely to labeled as extremely risky in 2012 because he is very much injury-prone with post-concussion symptoms.
Not a good thing when your Detroit Lions' offensive line is horrendous at run-blocking.
That brings us to our next running back who might start, but then again might be suspended for multiple games: Mikel Leshoure.
After missing the entire 2011 season for the Detroit Lions with a torn Achilles, Leshoure is back and ready to go.
However, according to Chris McCosky at The Detroit News, Leshoure was arrested twice in less than a month (Feb. 18 and March 12) on marijuana possession charges, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will likely suspend Leshoure for four games.
Meanwhile, the third Detroit Lions running back in this trio is Kevin Smith. Smith has been injury-prone throughout his career as well. He has not been that productive when he has carried the rock, either.
Furthermore, the 2012 Detroit Lions' running back committee looks way too risky and combined with the inept run-blocking of the offensive line, I do not see any improvement for this running back group in 2012.
The Immaturity of the Detroit Lions
Lions teammates Titus Young, left, and Louis Delmas / DFP file photos
Where do I begin about the immaturity of the Detroit Lions?
I can start off with coach Jim Schwartz chasing after and bumping coach Jim Harbaugh after Harbaugh gave Schwartz an aggressive handshake and backslap following the game on Oct. 18, 2011 between the Lions and 49ers.
Then the Suh stomped back in the 2011 Thanksgiving Day game against the Green Bay Packers where he got suspended for two games. Suh first said he was just trying to get his balance and then his own team said his actions were unnecessary. Suh even tried to appeal the suspension. Come on man!
The Detroit Lions have three players since Feb. 2012 that have been caught with possession of marijuana: Johnny Cullbreath (repeat offender), Nick Fairly (early April) and Mikel Leshoure (repeat offender).
More recently with the Detroit Lions, there was an altercation where wide receiver Titus Young punched teammate safety Louis Delmas in the face when Delmas was not looking. As a result, Young is now banned from organized team activities.
Furthermore, the Detroit Lions were a fluke in 2011, and with a mediocre offensive line, horrendous run-defense, no depth in secondary, no healthy running back, and immaturity issues will haunt this team in 2012.