Detroit Lions: Which Players Have Had the Best and Worst Starts This Season?
Coming off a bye week, Week 6 finished with another roller-coaster performance. The Detroit Lions managed a 26-23 overtime victory on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles, setting them with a 2-3 record.
The Lions are yet to put together a complete or consistent game. It's become a habit for Detroit to come out flat in the first half, hang around throughout the game then save their good play for the end. It's a scary style to play with, but it's become quite a routine with this team.
Plenty of players are displaying either an up or down kind of season. Here's are some players off to the best and worst starts of the 2012 season.
1. Best: Nate Burleson
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Opponents have played heavy Cover 2 defense against the Lions in attempt to take away receiver Calvin Johnson and the big plays on offense. This creates more opportunities for the secondary options to capitalize.
So far, the only target that has been fairly consistent and useful is receiver Nate Burleson.
The Lions' crafty veteran has hauled in 22 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Burleson recorded a clutch score against the Eagles on a 17-yard game-chainging touchdown.
Burleson's numbers might not wow anybody, but he's been Matthew Stafford's most consistent target. The Lions currently rank third in dropped passes, but the veteran slot receiver has been the most reliable option aside Johnson. Burleson never takes a play off, and has been a positive presence for an offense this inconsistent.
2. Worst: Titus Young
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
With many projecting a breakout season for receiver Titus Young, those expectations have not been validated on the field. The former second-round draft pick came into 2012 hopefully to emerge as another dangerous threat in the Lions' high-powered offense. Five games in, Young has been more invisible than dangerous.
Minus a miraculous Hail Mary pass against Tennessee, Young has greatly underachieved this season. Detroit's second-year receiver has only caught nine passes for 117 yards and one touchdown. Young has had his share of dropped passes and has still shown the same immaturity from last season. Young was benched against the St. Louis Rams for head-butting rookie Janoris Jenkins.
The Lions' offense has looked out of sync all season and most of the blame should be shouldered by the disappointing play of players like Young. Detroit must get its offense back on the right page to provide that same spark of explosiveness.
3. Best: Jason Hanson
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Where would this franchise be without Jason Hanson?
The Lions still suiting up their long-time kicker is one of the last pieces of loyalty in sports. And even at 42 years of age with 21 seasons in the NFL, Hanson is still getting the job done in Detroit.
Hanson has been extremely efficient this year and has made 12 of 13 kicks and eight extra points for a total of 44 points this year. When the offense goes stagnant and can't convert a touchdown, Hanson has kept the Lions close with his kicking.
Ol' Reliable continues his Hall of Fame-worthy career with plenty of power and accuracy left in his kicks. This offense could be much worse without the production of Hanson in 2012.
4. Worst: Brandon Pettigrew
Dave Reginek/Getty Images
One of the biggest headaches of the Lions' season has been the unreliable Brandon Pettigrew. Matthew Stafford has promised to "keep throwing to him" but he hasn't earned much reason to do so.
The Lions' go-to tight end is tied for second in the league for most drops. Pettigrew has dropped four passes this season, which isn't the alarming point. What's harmed the Lions most is the timing of Pettigrew's inability to make a play.
Pettigrew has dropped a couple touchdowns and other big-potential chain-moving gains for Detroit. The Lions haven't been able to use Pettigrew in the red zone because he struggles with getting open and securing the football. 23 catches for 223 yards and only one touchdown doesn't cut it for a first-round talent like Pettigrew.
5. Best: Joique Bell
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
After entering the season as only a depth-back for the Lions, running back Joique Bell has turned many heads this season. Bell has taken snaps from Kevin Smith and Keiland Williams, earning the role as the No. 2 running back behind starter Mikel Leshoure. With his limited snaps, Bell has taken full advantage.
Bell has carried the ball 20 times for 78 yards and a touchdown. He's even become a reliable checkdown option for Matthew Stafford, catching 13 passes for 178 yards. In the absence of injury-plagued back Jahvid Best, Bell has made the most of his opportunities as a Lion.
The Wayne State product has rushed hard through contact and always pushes for extra yards. Bell won't grow into a feature back anytime soon, but he's been a serviceable filler in the Lions backfield. Look for Bell to continue his impressive play throughout the season.