Detroit Lions: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 3
Washington might be a great place for most people to visit, but for the Lions it's been a house of horrors. Detroit has traveled to Washington to play the Redskins 21 times in their history. All 21 visits have ended in defeat, one of the most inglorious and dubious strings in all of professional sports.
NFC North Division Standings
|Team||Win||Loss||Points For||Points Against|
|Green Bay Packers||1||1||66||54|
The Lions are now looking up at the undefeated Bears, who recorded a late win over the Vikings. Chicago visits Pittsburgh in Week 3, while Green Bay heads to Cincinnati to face the Bengals. Minnesota hosts winless Cleveland and should be the favorite at home.
After escaping the first week relatively lightly on the injury front, Jim Schwartz had a lot more wounded Lions to talk about in his Monday press conference.
Reggie Bush and Nick Fairley are the key injuries. Bush injured his left knee, which was already one of several minor injuries that were listed a week ago. He missed all but two plays of the second half of the loss to Arizona. While his status for the Washington game is unknown, the Detroit Free Press reported that Bush's injury is not considered long-term. If Bush can't go on Sunday, look for rookie Theo Riddick to see more significant action, and also for Mikel Leshoure to be active for the first time this year.
Fairley missed the Arizona game after hurting a shoulder in his strong opening performance against Minnesota. In his Monday press conference, Jim Schwartz offered little on Fairley other than saying he's day-to-day.
The same glib, brief assessment was given on Edwards, as well. Schwartz indicated Edwards tried to return to the game but "really wasn't effective once he went back out". Edwards is scheduled for further tests this week and his status for Sunday is unknown.
Broyles is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered late last season. According to Justin Rogers at MLive.com, Broyles has been a full participant at practice, but the team is reluctant to rush him into game situations.
From the MLive piece:
"He's getting closer," Schwartz said. "He's physically strong. He's working his way back into game shape.
"He's making progress. It's really too hard to say right now (if he can play)."
Kris Durham and Micheal Spurlock figure to see more action if Edwards and/or Broyles are not at full speed.
Schwartz did not mention Carey or Fox specifically during his press conference. Fox is expected to miss at least one more week with a groin injury that forced him from the Minnesota game. He has been replaced by Corey Hilliard as the starting right tackle, and undrafted rookie LaAdrian Waddle should be active once again as the reserve tackle, as he was in Arizona.
Carey also missed the Arizona game, which paved the way for DeJuan Gomes to make the active roster. He played exclusively on special teams, making a tackle and getting flagged for a penalty.
What Needs to Improve
This section is almost eternally led by the "avoid dumb penalties" mantra. Guess what? It's still a problem. As I chronicled in the Sunday post-game review:
This week's penalty tally wound up at eight, for a grand total of 105 yards. A Willie Young "illegal hands to the face" penalty negated a beautiful strip-sack by Ziggy Ansah. Instead of a turnover, the Cardinals kept possession.
Corner Bill Bentley was flagged twice for pass interference, the second of which was a direct result of losing mental focus during the play. Israel Idonije earned a roughing the passer call when the veteran defensive end plowed into Carson Palmer's legs well after he threw the ball. Young also had an offsides penalty, while two special teams penalties helped dig the field position hole.
That is a hole that needs no further excavation. Detroit began one drive beyond its own 20-yard line, an end-of-half situation that began exactly one yard beyond the 20. The Lions punt return team was overwhelmed by a very solid Arizona punt unit. Cardinals punter Dave Zastudil ranks second in the NFL in return yards per punt, and he showed why against Detroit.
Washington presents a real opportunity to improve. The Redskins rank 27th in net punting, though punter Sav Rocca has allowed just one return on his eight punts this year. Return man Micheal Spurlock has had some success against the Redskins in his career, with a 9.5 yards per punt return average.
Spurlock might get a chance to try and return some kickoffs as well. Washington's regular kicker, Kai Forbath, missed their ugly loss in Green Bay with an injury. His short-term replacement is John Potter, who allowed two returns on four kickoffs. Spurlock needs to be more assertive in attacking any creases, and the blockers must do a better job of establishing those creases and creating some running lanes.
Defensively, the Lions must continue to pressure the quarterback. It would be a big help if the defensive line could convert more of their QB pressures into actual sacks. While the pressure is a great thing, sacks are the caramel, homemade whip cream and cherry on top of the pressure sundae.
The folks at Pro Football Focus (subscription required, sort by clicking on the headings) credit the Lions with the second-best pass rush in the league through two games. Their game charters list the Lions with 37 QB pressures, but just five sacks. My own personal notes have just 34 pressures and four sacks, which is the official sack number from the NFL, but that's still not a very good ratio of completing the play.
Ndamukong Suh has 12 pressures but has yet to record a sack. Willie Young has been within a half-step of at least four sacks but has yet to add a pelt to his wall either. This is not an effort issue. I'll repeat that because it's important; this is not an issue of not giving maximum effort. The biggest reason for the failure to record more sacks is that only one player is getting the pressure fast enough, and that gives throwing lanes and escape routes.
With Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III still obviously limited as he recovers from a knee injury, the Lions should have some shots at RG3. Washington has a solid offensive line, but the Lions have the talent up front to impact the passing game and record some game-changing sacks. Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham dialed up some blitzes last week to keep the Cardinals guessing, and that would be an effective tactic in Washington, as well. The Lions do need to practice the timing on those blitzes, however.
All statistics are from NFL.com unless otherwise indicated.
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