Will Calvin Johnson top 2,000 yards receiving?
Speaking of the books, it's time to break out the calculators, slide rules, abacuses and protractors to try and predict what the final stat book will look like. These 2013 Lions figure to put up some gaudy offensive numbers. There should be an increase in the defensive numbers that matter, things like sacks, interceptions and passes defended.
The following is a look at what the Lions stat book figures to look like at the end of the 2013 NFL season.
It is hard not to get excited about what Matthew Stafford can do with the ball in his hands. In the last two seasons, the Lions quarterback has put up two of the seven most prolific passing yardage totals in NFL history.
Here's a look at Stafford's handiwork the last two seasons:
|Year||Completions||Attempts||Yards||Completion %||TDs||INTs||Yards/Attempt||QB Rating|
Stafford led the league in attempts both years, shattering the NFL record last year. The Lions are looking to ease off that record pace in 2013, but it's a safe bet that Stafford will rank at or near the top in attempts once again. Stafford's numbers should look something like this:
|Completions||Attempts||Yards||Completion %||TDs||INTs||Yards/Attempt||QB Rating|
Shaun Hill is the backup quarterback. In fact, Hill is widely regarded as one of the very best backups in the business.
In the event of Stafford getting hurt, here is what Hill could do as the starter:
|Completions||Attempts||Yards||Completion %||TDs||INTs||Yards/Attempt||QB Rating|
The elusive running back will be the Lions' primary runner in 2013 after coming over from the Miami Dolphins. Bush has such a variable history in his seven-year career that charting his recent work is somewhat irrelevant.
The Lions divvied up the carries roughly 3-to-1 between the primary runner (Mikel Leshoure) and the primary reserve (Joique Bell). I don't believe the divide will be so wide in 2013, but there figures to be more carries to go around for everyone.
Bush is an excellent receiver. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will lean on Bush as a receiver. Head coach Jim Schwartz indicated that Bush could catch 80 passes not long after signing him.
Once again, Joique Bell will serve as a reserve back. He will see a limited number of carries, but his work as a receiver likely keeps him ahead of Mikel Leshoure in the pecking order. Bush's presence likely eats into Bell's work as a receiver, where he caught 52 passes a year ago, more than it impacts his rushing workload.
In 2012, Mikel Leshoure led the Lions across the board in all rushing stats. He got the most carries (215), yards (798) and touchdowns (9). His 3.7 yards per attempt were a disappointment.
Looking forward, Leshoure will be fighting with Joique Bell for the secondary running back role. Leshoure is the better inside runner, which makes him more of a change of pace from Bush. Should he seize that No. 2 role, his numbers should look something like this:
Should Bush get hurt early and Leshoure regains the feature back role, I would expect the following line:
What can Megatron do for an encore? Last season he shattered the NFL single-season receiving yardage record while also leading the NFL in receptions. He's led the league in receiving yards for two consecutive years and ranked in the top 10 in yards per reception both times. Johnson's last three season have been nothing short of spectacular.
About the only knock on Johnson is that he didn't find the end zone enough last year. Just five of his 122 receptions resulted in touchdowns.
Lions fans shouldn't fret, because Johnson scored 45 touchdowns in the prior four seasons. Bet on at least half of those frustrating eight times Johnson was tackled inside the five-yard line a year ago winding up in the end zone in 2013. If you're a fantasy player, Calvin Johnson is as safe as they come.
Veteran Nate Burleson enters the season as the Lions' No. 2 wideout. Because he is 32 and missed more than half of 2012 with a broken leg, uncertainty shrouds Burleson. He's better suited to play in the slot but will see significant action on the opposite side from Johnson. That situation might augment his yards per catch, but it could water down the catch total.
Burleson's 2013 projection:
Ryan Broyles is another receiver coming off an injury. His status is further clouded because the 2012 second-round draft pick has now torn a different ACL in back-to-back years.
When healthy, Broyles is Detroit's primary slot receiver, a role he filled quite well before the knee injury ended his rookie campaign. With Reggie Bush figuring to see some of those reps in the slot and the precautions the Lions are taking with Broyles in his recovery, his numbers are not likely to be that high.
Look for most of his productivity to come later in the season.
The wideout depth behind the top three remains unsettled. Patrick Edwards has received the most reps with the starting unit and has the downfield speed the Lions covet, which makes him the most likely candidate to serve in the fourth wideout role.
Last year this spot was a real hole, producing just 17 receptions between Mike Thomas, Kris Durham and Brian Robiskie.
Edwards should top that, and he has the potential to break a handful of bubble screens into big gains. Don't expect any other wide receiver (Durham, Chaz Schilens, Corey Fuller, Matt Willis) to break five catches unless there's an injury or two on the depth chart above them.
Enigmatic Brandon Pettigrew is the primary tight end. Various injuries and concentration lapses have blunted his impact, but Pettigrew remains a valuable target in the intermediate range and red zone. When Stafford needs a big catch on 3rd-and-short, he often looks to Pettigrew.
Expect his yards per reception to dip now that the Lions (hopefully!) have a healthy wide receiving corps. Also, his catch total could really fall off should Stafford lose confidence in Pettigrew's erratic hands.
Tony Scheffler sees the field a lot as the second tight end. His athleticism allows Scheffler to line up flexed out or even as the Z receiver at times. While he's an ineffective blocker on his best day, this is all about what he can do as a receiver. I expect his yards per reception to increase as he plays more outside the hashes.
Three seasons ago, Ndamukong Suh burst onto the NFL scene with 10 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble he returned for a touchdown. That heralded the arrival of the second overall pick as a dynamic force.
His production has fallen off a little from that stellar rookie year, but not by as much as many national pundits would have you believe.
In 2012, Suh bagged eight sacks and contributed another 16 tackles for loss. Both marks ranked second among all defensive tackles, according to Advanced NFL Stats. From that same chart, Suh's 32 quarterback hits ranked first by over 50 percent from his nearest competitor. Look for Suh to once again rank at or near the top in those stat metrics for all tackles.
The prediction for Suh is 9.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, three passes defended, 24 QB hits, two forced fumbles and two personal foul penalties for those that still prefer to dwell on his negatives.
It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Nick Fairley's potential; I tabbed him as the team's MVP in an earlier column. A lighter, sprier Fairley stands a better chance of playing a full season and posting the kind of numbers that brought Cincinnati's Geno Atkins such accolades a year ago.
Fairley should come close to matching Atkins, a player with a similar style, with a breakout 2013. Look for 11.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 44 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and one INT for good measure as he plays 16 games for the first time in his career.
For all intents and purposes, first-round pick Ziggy Ansah is replacing Kyle Vanden Bosch in the lineup.
It's hard to imagine Ziggy charting less than what the broken-down Vanden Bosch did in his Lions swan song: 3.5 sacks, 28 tackles, one PD and a gift of a safety. The No. 5 overall pick in the draft has already demonstrated a playmaking flair and solid run awareness during the preseason.
Ansah's rookie line forecast is 6.5 sacks, 32 tackles, four PDs, one interception and three fumble recoveries, one of which he returns for a touchdown.
The free agent from Seattle will start at left end, but he'll also play inside at times. Throughout his career, Jones has been most successful when used as an inside nickel package rusher.
Jones' 2013 stat sheet will look something like this: 17 tackles, 5.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, three passes defended.
In a recent column, I touted Young as my pleasant surprise pick for 2013. If he can get the 22 tackles, five sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble I'm predicting here, Willie Young scampers away with the award.
Detroit will start Stephen Tulloch in the middle, flanked by DeAndre Levy and Ashlee Palmer. In the Lions' scheme the linebackers are asked to rack up tackles but typically do not post many tackles for loss, sacks, or forced turnovers. There has been an emphasis on producing more of those, however.
103 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, two forced fumbles.
82 tackles, three tackles for loss, two interceptions, seven passes defended, one forced fumble.
73 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, five passes defended.
The four starters will be corners Chris Houston and Darius Slay, backed by safeties Louis Delmas and Glover Quin.
46 tackles, four INTs, 11 passes defended, seven penalties.
49 tackles, five INTs, 16 passes defended, 1.5 sacks.
71 tackles, two INTs, seven passes defended, two forced fumbles.
9 games played, 37 tackles, one INT, three passes defended, one fumble recovery.
Key reserves include nickelback Bill Bentley, third safety Don Carey and recent acquisition Rashean Mathis.
26 tackles, two INTs, five passes defended, five penalties.
49 tackles, one INT, five passes defended in eight starts in relief of Delmas.
23 tackles, two INTs, four passes defended.