The Detroit Lions...The laughing stock of the league in 2008 and the first 0-16 team in NFL history, is hoping to pull a few rabbits out of their hat this year and make an impact in the NFC North.
Before getting to their new and improved playbook though, lets take a look at what worked last year.
When you really think about it, they had two consistently successful offensive plays throughout the season.
1. Throw the ball to Calvin Johnson
2. Kick a field goal with Jason Hanson
The Lions addressed their most pertinent issue on the offensive side of the ball by drafting QB Matthew Stafford first overall. Odds are he will not be the starter on day one, although there's a chance they could put him in this year if they struggle early.
The draft pick that should pay immediate dividends is the other first round pick, TE Brandon Pettigrew.
Jim Schwartz loved using his TE's in Tennessee, and coming to Detroit, he didn't have anyone comparable to guys like Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler. Pettigrew will be that guy. He will start immediately and he should get his fair share of targets.
Picking up Ronald Curry and Bryant Johnson to compliment Calvin Johnson should help the passing game as well.
Both receivers are solid veterans, and while they won't put up great numbers, they're significant upgrades from Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald.
The only other significant offensive pickup was Maurice Morris, who will act as a backup to Kevin Smith. He is a good pass blocker that should get a handful of carries each game to give Smith a breather.
Then there's the defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately I'm at a loss here. I really can't think of a single play that worked on a regular basis. The Lions couldn't get sacks, they couldn't get picks, and they gave up a ton of yards, both rushing and passing.
In summary: their defense was a joke.
Enter former Titans defensive coordinator and new Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. He turned the Titans into one of the most feared defenses in the game.
They were equally effective at stopping the run and the pass, and put fear in the hearts of opposing quarterbacks.
The problem Schwartz now faces is how to turn the most transparent defense in the NFL into a dominant force similar to what he had going in Tennessee.
I guess he figured the best way to accomplish that goal is to get better players. Makes sense to me.
Schwartz, along with GM Martin Mayhew, went out and picked up two pro-bowl caliber linebackers in Julian Peterson and Larry Foote to compliment Ernie Sims.
The focus then shifted to the horrid secondary. Adding CB's Phillip Buchanon and Anthony Henry, as well as drafting FS Louis Delmas in the second round of the draft, should immediately improve the Lions pass defense from useless to decent, which is quite a leap for one offseason.
Now Schwartz's defense in Tennessee was centered around a dominant defensive line, which was anchored by some guy named Albert Haynesworth. The Detroit Lions have nobody comparable to Haynesworth, and their D-line is swiss cheese compared to Tennessee's.
They did pick up Grady Jackson, which is a good upgrade, but it's clear that Detroit chose to focus on fixing the secondary this year, and will presumably focus on the line next year.
Put simply though, it's going to be up to the linebackers to stop the run, because the defensive line isn't going to help very much.
All that being said, the Lions will definitely have a few new plays that should improve their effectiveness on both sides of the ball.