Who Wears the Crown: Identifying the Detroit Lions' Best Player at Midseason
Not an ideal start to 2012 for the Detroit Lions.
After making the playoffs last season, the Lions have been falling short of the optimistic expectations set for this year. Detroit currently sits at the bottom of the NFC North with a 2-4 record.
The Lions have yet to put together a cohesive game as a team, resulting in their disappointing season thus far. There have been plenty of regressing performances by some players, but the Lions are still getting production from some key contributors.
Here are the Lions' top five players this season.
5. DeAndre Levy
With questions about re-assembling the linebacking core, the Detroit Lions had to make a decision on restricted free agent DeAndre Levy this offseason.
Levy helped provide stability for Detroit's defense, signing his tender offer to return to the team for another year. So far, the re-signing has paid off for the Lions and Levy.
Levy has racked up 37 tackles this season and has significantly improved his weaknesses of last year. He's been better in coverage against tight ends and running backs in the screen game.
Levy hasn't been a standout difference-maker, but he's been fairly consistent and a surprise for the Lions defense this season.
4. Ndamukong Suh
Ndamukong Suh was plagued with penalties, suspensions and other on-field drama in 2011, but the monster Lions defensive tackle seems back to his disruptive ways.
Suh finished 2011 with four sacks during the regular season. So far this season, Detroit's star tackle is already at 3.5 sacks through six games and constantly finds his way in the opponent's backfield.
Suh still deals with constant double-teams, but he's managed to spark as a playmaker.
The Lions thrive off of Suh's energy and pressure on opposing quarterbacks. When Suh is applying heat on quarterbacks, the entire defense benefits and feeds off his production.
The Lions need Suh to maintain his high level of play.
3. Chris Houston
Playing in a contract year with a young, learning secondary around him, cornerback Chris Houston has plenty to prove this season. After dealing with his early-season injury, Houston has shown his value to the secondary and the entire Lions defense.
Houston is in his prime and possibly playing the best football of his career. Since being traded from the Atlanta Falcons and battling injuries last year, Houston has been very stable playing in the struggling Lions secondary.
After a big interception against the Philadelphia Eagles, with 17 tackles and four passes deflected, Houston is making a strong case to stay in Detroit.
At this rate, the Lions would be crazy not to bring him back for plenty more years.
2. Stephen Tulloch
The Detroit Lions heavily pursued linebacker Stephen Tulloch when he became a free agent in 2011. General manager Martin Mayhew signed Tulloch to a trial one-year contract to see what he was made of.
This past offseason, Tulloch signed a five-year deal with the Lions, becoming a new face of the defense. After last season and midway through 2012, this signing is looking to be one of Mayhew's best transactions.
Tulloch corralled 111 tackles last year and currently has 40 through six games. He's been one of the sure tacklers on defense and has helped the Lions limit star running backs like Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson and LeSean McCoy to pedestrian-like performances.
Tulloch has been the leader and producer head coach Jim Schwartz has needed on the Lions defense this season.
1. Jason Hanson
The expected answer as to who the Lions' best player is so far should be quarterback Matthew Stafford or wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
However, with a stagnant performance from the Lions offense this season, nobody on offense deserves to be mentioned as one of the top players this year.
The best offensive weapon for the Lions this year has also been the most reliable for the past 21 years. The iron boot of kicker Jason Hanson continues to get the job done in Detroit.
Hanson is 16-of-17 for field-goal attempts this season, including nine made from 40 to 49 yards out.
Hanson has been the only consistent scoring threat for the Lions. While Stafford and his targets fail to score touchdowns, Hanson manages to keep the Lions close with his leg.