With cuts coming down this week, it's a good time to take stock of where the team sits and how it looks for the start of the season.
The Lions have had a tumultuous offseason, both on and off the field, though really all that matters is what happens on the field.
One general note that we've seen which is a concern is the number of penalties. Every media person who overlooks the Lions points to discipline as the issue, and given the flags raining down upon the field in the first three weeks of the preseason, it's an issue still.
I don't for a minute believe it will kill their season—unless we have more suspensions like Ndamukong Suh's last year, which will truly impact how the team can play. In fact, the suspension of Mikel Leshoure and the potential suspension for Nick Fairley are examples of that.
However, while it would be good to see them tighten up the silly holding and neutral-zone infractions, sometimes that's what you need to deal with when your team is a high-motor, aggressive team. Especially on defense.
No point in giving an opposing offense a fresh set of downs or killing your own drive, though.
So far, you have to think this offense is in great shape, at least for the most part. Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson are getting back in rhythm, and Titus Young has been playing at a high level. Brandon Pettigrew is holding onto the ball better, and Nate Burleson continues his solid play from last year.
There are two areas of concern here—the offensive line and the backfield.
The backfield is the smaller concern here. Of course, Jahvid Best is now officially on the PUP, something I have been expecting since the beginning of camp. What I find hard to believe is the idea that, "oh, they knew this would happen all along."
I just find that hard to believe, given the rhetoric early this summer that he was ready to go. That never would have happened if they'd known.
That's beside the point, though. As I said last night, this team has been planning for this for a while now. They believe in Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith. They will protect Smith by limiting his workload, and Leshoure may have looked shaky last game, but you have to keep in mind he hasn't played in a year. There's bound to be some rust.
This is a backfield that is fine. In fact, like the Packers, the backfield will do just enough to enhance the passing game, which is what they want to do anyway.
The offensive line has never been terribly strong, let's be honest. It isn't awful. It just isn't really good.
That said, it has struggled so far in the preseason. It's a concern, not just because if the pocket collapses too quickly it limits how far Stafford can throw, but also because there are still some concerns about Stafford's health. Not that he is prone to injuries, so much as he is prone to weird and devastating injuries.
He's a tough player, but nobody can play through a broken clavicle. Is it likely he gets badly hurt again? No, not really. However, there is the concern lingering that last year was the aberration, not the years prior.
To allay those fears, the line needs to pick up its play.
So far, I've liked what I have seen on the defensive front. They haven't juggled the positions all that much (shifting Suh and Fairley outside, for example) but we see the talent. And the flexibility that Willie Young gives this defense is really nice.
Even the secondary is looking good for the most part. If Chris Houston's ankle is OK for Week 1, I expect he and Bill Bentley to be your starting cornerbacks this season.
Now, the safety position is a bit shaky. I have a bad feeling about Louis Delmas' injury. I know people feel that recently acquired Kevin Barnes was pulled merely for corner depth, but he has played safety.
Just a gut feeling, feel free to dismiss.
I do think John Wendling will continue his strong play into the regular season, but Amari Spievey hasn't been great and Erik Coleman isn't special. If Delmas is out, they have an issue. If not, Wendling and Delmas should be solid.
Overall, the defense has improved this preseason, and given how many people have written the team off in the media, someone is going to be surprised this season.