To be fair, a team coming off a 0-16 season is unprecedented, as unprecedented as a NFL team going 0-16 in the first place. At this point we have no idea if the Lions could catch lightning in the bottle and rebuild themselves like the Miami Dolphins did last season.
After having a pretty successful draft, at first glance, and a very successful free agent signing period, it looks like the 2009 Detroit Lions will have much of the same problems as the 2008 version did.
The most blatant holes in this roster fall on the defensive side of the ball. In 2008, the Lions ranked last in overall defense. They gave up over 400 yards, and over 32 points per game. No offense ever created could overcome those numbers.
Through free agency, the Lions added veteran linebackers Julian Peterson and Larry Foote. These additions should bring down the amount of rush yards this defense gives up a game, 172 in 2008, but holes in the secondary will ensure the Lions' opponents are not slowed down too much.
While the Lions did add stud Safety Louis Delmas via the draft, one DB cannot cover the entire field, and there is a huge gap between his talent and the talent of the other DBs.
The rest of the players on the depth chart at safety are little more then a collection of holdovers from 2008. Daniel Bullocks, Kalvin Pearson, Gerald Alexander, Stuart Schweigert, Dowayne Davis, and Lamarcus Hicks couldn’t stop opposing teams in 2008 and there is little to suggest they will in 2009.
At the cornerback position, there is good depth with Eric King, Travis Fisher, and Keith Smith to accompany likely starters Philip Buchannon and Anthony Henry. However, there is no start, there is no lockdown DB on this entire problem. Only time will tell if that will become an issue.
On the offensive side, the biggest questions seems to be at running back and offensive line. The Lions have three high round draft picks on that line; Gosder Cherilus, Jeff Backus, and Dominic Raiola. It is time for these three picks to gel together and offer quality pass protection and running lanes for the Lions' ground attack.
There seems to be some evidence that this may happen from Sporting News, who ranked Raiola as the eighth best center in the league this season. While he lacks overall size, he is smart and highly competitive. If he can keep his emotions in check, and not threaten to fight his own fans anymore, maybe he could finally live up to his potential.
If the O-Line can succeed, the Lions can shift their attention to the other offensive issue of running back.
Kevin Smith will have the preseason and the first few games of the 2009 season to prove that he can be an NFL feature back. If his offensive line steps up he might be able to prove that, but maybe he is simply not good enough.
Really this issue boils down to this; will the Lions need one complementary back for 2010 and beyond or a new feature back and a complementary back heading into the next offseason?
If the Lions can further address these issues before the start of the season, there will be more hope for a five win or more season. CB Adam Jones is still on the market, but his off the field troubles may not be what a rebuilding team needs.