Detroit Lions: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 2
NFC North Division Standings
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Getting the victory over the division rival Vikings Week 1puts the Lions on top of what looks to be a highly competitive NFC North.
RB Reggie Bush has a litany of injuries. He's almost to the point in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones is looking for body parts that don't hurt. Bush suffered a pulled groin and a dislocated left thumb during the game. Later on Monday, Bush self-reported another malady:
Reggie Bush said on 97.1 he also hyperextended his knee during second quarter against Vikings— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) September 9, 2013
Bush didn't show any ill effects from the various wounds during the game. He has a lengthy history of playing through minor injuries like these.
WR Ryan Broyles is improving, but it sounds as if he still isn't quite ready to see the field. From Jim Schwartz's press conference:
1:21 -- Ryan Broyles is making up time fast and is probably ahead of where he was last year. He's still working his way back, but he'll contribute down the road.
Schwartz noted there were "soft tissue" injuries to right tackle Jason Fox and safety Don Carey. Per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Fox suffered a groin pull:
Fox suffered a groin pull in his first career start.— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) September 9, 2013
Carey played exclusively on special teams. Fox started at right tackle but left the game after just 18 snaps. He was replaced by Corey Hilliard.
One notable omission from the injury report is safety Louis Delmas, who played every defensive snap against the Vikings. This is a very positive development for the difference-making but oft-injured performer.
What Must Improve
It's always more fun to write this section after a win than a loss, yet there is still ample room for the Lions to play better.
Can Jim Schwartz Keep the Lions From Committing More Dumb Penalties?
Eliminating the mental mistakes is paramount. It's not just Ndamukong Suh and his frustrating inability to control himself in the heat of battle. The Lions were flagged for two false starts and two offsides penalties in the win. Louis Delmas committed a senseless unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for entering the fray after the play with a little too much to say.
Rookie corner Darius Slay got benched for his lousy play against both the run and pass. It was a rough debut for the second-round pick from Mississippi State as he earned the lowest grade of any Lions player from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) at -4.4. It would be one thing if Slay were consistently bested by the likes of Greg Jennings, but it was journeyman Jerome Simpson that did the damage. Slay will have better days, but that first day was pretty rough.
Fellow corner Chris Houston continues his struggles with locating the ball in the air. On two separate throws, Houston was in good position to make a play but had no idea the ball was within reach. This has plagued Houston back to his days as an Atlanta Falcon, so it's not likely to end anytime soon. Aside from his apparent refusal to turn his head, Houston played quite well.
As I discussed in issuing the weekly report card, tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler both struggled in the passing game. Pettigrew's concentration lapses are becoming a serious problem. He did redeem himself with some excellent run blocking. Scheffler dropped his only targeted pass and was a non-factor as a blocker. It appears as if Scheffler's role is being usurped by rookie Joseph Fauria.
Both offensive tackles had some trouble in pass protection. I would counter that the Vikings feature one of the best pass rushers in the league in Jared Allen and solid bookend complements in Brian Robison and Everson Griffen. Still, left tackle Riley Reiff allowed too much room for Allen to build momentum on the bull rush. Right tackle Corey Hilliard gave up five QB hurries in relief and earned the worst score on the offense from Pro Football Focus at -2.9. In my personal film review I only counted three, however.
Punter Sam Martin needs to improve his consistency. This carries back to preseason a little, as Martin had three outstanding games and one clunker in the exhibition season. The fumbled snap on the first field-goal attempt is something we may never see from Martin again.
Detroit did an excellent job of dictating the action on both sides of the ball against the Vikings. That is not always easy to sustain, but this team showed it has the talent to do it every week.
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