Detroit Lions Stock Up, Stock Down After Sunday's Loss to Tennessee
Two days after the comeback (and overtime letdown) of the year, you would be hard pressed to find a Detroit Lions fan not still in bewilderment of what took place Sunday afternoon in Tennessee. Each week that the season progresses, we learn a little bit more of what this Lions team is made of.
So far, we're left with more questions than answers.
Here is a brief list of what we have come to know for sure, three weeks in.
Stock Up: Calvin Johnson
It’s only Week 3 and Megatron is already in midseason form. Each week he has progressively increased in receptions (six, eight and 10), fantasy points (17.1, 17.4 and 32.4) and he also found the end zone in Tennessee on Sunday afternoon.
There is little doubt that Johnson is the most talented human being on the field in any given game, and it would be shortsighted to infer that his stock is not perpetually rising.
Barring an injury, Johnson should be on track for a career year and once again be in the NFL MVP conversation.
Stock Up: Mikel Leshoure
It seems Lions’ fans got what they have been waiting 17 months for—which is how long it's been since Detroit took him in the second round of the 2011 draft. Leshoure is a legitimate, featured running back who opposing defenses will have to plan for.
Leshoure is a punishing runner with exceptional quickness and elusiveness. Rarely does Leshoure go down upon first contact, and you can bet that once he is brought down, he is falling forward for an extra yard or two.
Sunday afternoon, Leshoure ran for 100 yards on 26 carries—nearly four yards per rush attempt—and tacked on four catches for 34 yards. All of this production came in spite of being sidelined for much of the fourth quarter and overtime for no particular reason other than perhaps the Lions brass not wanting to overwork him in his NFL debut.
Detroit has a lot to look forward to with Leshoure, assuming he stays healthy and out of trouble off the field.
Stock Up: Detroit's Offensive Line
Despite a few mental errors coming by way of pre-snap penalties, Detroit’s offensive line has been above average. They have only allowed four sacks in three games. Going into Week 3, they had the fewest penalties in the entire NFC North.
And did I mention that the Lions boasted a 100-yard rusher on Sunday?
Stock Down: The Entire Lions Secondary
A lot has been made of the replacement officials since the beginning of the season. Much like the missed calls and confusion that we see from the substitute refs, we are witnessing something similar with the Lions secondary.
With a stable of cast-off defensive backs from other teams and inexperienced rookies, this crew leaves much to be desired, and their play on the field reflects that.
Lions’ fans can only hope that this bunch figures things out quickly or that a few viable options become available. Even at that, it’s highly unlikely the Lions will be able to fill these holes sufficiently until the offseason.
That being said, we could see a lot more big plays given up on defense—a la the "Music City Miracle Part Two."
Stock Down: The Lions Defensive Line
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, the Lions defensive line looked apathetic at best on Sunday afternoon, recording zero sacks and only one hit on Titans quarterback Jake Locker.
There is no excuse for a defensive line full of Pro Bowl-caliber players to have such a pedestrian performance versus an offensive line with names that the common fan wouldn’t recognize.
When your defensive line has little to no influence on the game, it makes the job of the secondary that much harder.
"We have to rush better,” said head coach Jim Schwartz, via Tim Twentyman at detroitlions.com. “We have some injuries in the back end, and we rely on those guys up front.”
Stock Down: Matthew Stafford
It doesn’t take much to see that Matthew Stafford hasn’t been himself this season. Through three weeks of the NFL season, fans are beginning to have more flashbacks of Stafford’s first two, subpar and injury-riddled seasons than that of last year’s playoff berth and record-setting performance.
Say what you want about Stafford’s durability, but let the truth be known that it took a leg injury and a Shaun Hill pass to get Calvin Johnson his first touchdown reception of the season.
When we see Stafford upright and on the field again, finding Megatron in the end zone should be on his short list of things to get done.
Stock Down: Brandon Pettigrew
If there were only one word that could describe Brandon Pettigrew’s performance so far this season, few would argue that the word would be “drop.”
Not only has Pettigrew not hauled in passes that he should, he gift wrapped a ball that he did catch and handed it to Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, who then galloped 72 yards for a score.
Pettigrew is an athletic specimen, but he quickly needs to make good on his God-given abilities in order for Detroit to turn this ship around. He is a vital piece to the Lions’ offensive puzzle.
Stock Down: Kevin Smith
After two somewhat productive games as a starter, Kevin Smith barely saw the field on Sunday, totaling a whopping zero touches.
A lesser role was expected for Smith, making way for the much-anticipated inauguration of Mikel Leshoure, but what’s even more head scratching than Smith’s totals is the fact that fellow running back Joique Bell had five carries and four catches.
If this trend continues and Jahvid Best is a “go” for Week 7 as is speculated, Smith could be on the short end of the running back stick.