Detroit Lions: Toughest 2012 Opponents Are Themselves

Eric VincentCorrespondent IJune 8, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks on from the bench against the New Orleans Saints during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After stunning the world with a 10-6 record and a playoff berth, the stars are finally beginning to align for the budding Detroit Lions. With a myriad of young talent plus a savvy coaching staff and front office, success seems to be knocking on the door for this team.

The Lions proved last year they could compete with just about any team in the NFL. However, the road to success only gets tougher for Detroit.

Their toughest opponent is yet to step foot in Ford Field or host the Lions at their own stadium. The Lions' greatest challenge has been staring them in the face all offseason.


The San Diego Union-Tribune recently recorded every NFL arrest and violation since 2000. So far in 2012, the Detroit Lions are guilty for 24 percent of the NFL's violations.

After the infamous "Suh Stomp" and other counts of immature character display last season, one would hope the Lions would grow and learn from their mistakes. Not only have the Lions not learned their lesson, they've taken a step backward in growth and maturity.

The Titus Young fight with Louis Delmas is a very common occurrence during offseason practices. The New Orleans Saints reportedly had a scuffle at practice recently. In 2008, Steve Smith and Ken Lucas had a melee of their own which resulted in injury. These instances happen regularly, not making Young any different from other NFL players.

However, what makes Young's issue different is the timing. Young was involved in many scuffles last season against the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears and more notably the New Orleans Saints. Young was benched for significant time after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Saints.

With hope that Young would learn from his mishaps, he has only disappointed. Young is a brilliant talent, but must keep his head on his shoulders if he wants to keep making an impact with the Lions. Not to mention Ryan Broyles making quite an impression on the coaching staff, Young doesn't want to risk losing playing time.

The same story goes for Mikel Leshoure and Nick Fairley. The DUI from Fairley and the marijuana charges aren't uncommon in the NFL, especially with young players. But both will play a huge role for the Lions in the long run. Leshoure missed the entire 2011-12 season, and Fairley missed significant time due to injury.

As the young Lions struggle to keep their composure, the veterans must step in as leaders. Calvin Johnson is the most talented receiver in the NFL, but has never been looked at as a leader. Megatron's list of responsibilities added another duty for this season. It's vital for Johnson to step in as a leader with teammates like Nate Burleson, Matthew Stafford and Dominic Raiola to keep the offense in line.

Ndamukong Suh said he wants to be a leader for the Lions, which is a sign of improvement after his issues last season. Suh will also carry his weight of responsibility with veterans Stephen Tulloch, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Louis Delmas to make sure the defense is in order.

Jim Schwartz and the rest of the coaching staff also must be held accountable for the immaturity of the Lions. Players can only help so much if the men under the headsets aren't doing their job of keeping their team under control. Schwartz must be more assertive and carry a no-tolerance attitude with his players if this continues to keep up.

The talent is there, and the Lions are Super Bowl bound if they want to be. A drastic mentality change must be in order for this team if they truly want to establish themselves as a championship contender. Detroit will give their best fight against their opponents this coming season, but they must conquer their own demons before worrying about anybody else.