Full Detroit Lions Midseason Awards
Jim Caldwell won't like this.
To be clear, Caldwell did say he understood his team's 1-7 record in football games doesn't help, according to Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News. Perhaps he's coming to grips with his team not being as close as he'd recently thought.
Regardless, the Lions have skidded into midseason award season wrapped in the musty scent of the cellar. Considering the above success rate, it would be easy to continue breeding the negativity that Caldwell so abhors.
Yet there were just enough positive elements to justify alternating the good with the bad. And by "just enough," I mean four. For the entire first half of the season.
The Detroit Lions of yesteryear—well, 2014 to be specific—were winning tight games, often in spite of their kicker. It wasn't until Matt Prater came on board that things turned around on special teams.
Yet, unlike the rest of his teammates, Prater has done an excellent job keeping a good thing going.
The veteran kicker has converted every one of his field-goal attempts and has only missed one of the newly elongated extra points. That lone miscue, however, was a blocked kick, and the blame shouldn't fall at his feet.
Prater isn't getting his due though because he isn't getting opportunities. While opponents have lined up for 17 field goals, Detroit has only moved the ball far enough downfield for eight tries, including his game-winner against the Bears.
He shouldn't be downgraded because of the company he keeps. In fact, maybe it should have been Prater being bandied about in trade buzz.
Most Declining Player
After the cleansing cheese that is Detroit's kicking game, it's time to take a trip to its secondary. There's no need to buckle up though. You won't find any obstacles in your path.
The Lions had to know they were playing with fire on the outside. Darius Slay has had a few bumps but has generally been one of Detroit's better players. Rashean Mathis cannot claim the same.
Aside from Mathis' lone interception against Minnesota, he's mostly been a welcoming host, ushering his guests anywhere they'd like to go. He's allowed a passer rating of 108.9 to opponents when they've targeted him, per Pro Football Focus, thanks to an 80 percent completion percentage.
Teams are dictating the play to the long-standing veteran. He used to have the advantage of a fierce pass rush in front of him, but now he's being asked to stick with receivers for longer periods of time, which isn't working out the way it was planned.
Rookie of the Year
Much like punter Sam Martin a few years ago, fullback Michael Burton was a fifth-round pick who didn't make much sense.
It wasn't a question of talent. He seemed fine and filled a need, but it looked like a reach at the time.
Funny what can happen in six months, as now one could argue he is the offensive MVP.
Burton is the team's third-highest graded offensive player behind Manny Ramirez (who has been benched) and Calvin Johnson. He's also the league's second-highest graded fullback because of his ability to sustain blocks, which is further proven by his lack of quarterback pressures allowed.
In short, he's the only offensive player who has lived up to or exceeded preseason expectations.
There's no sense in belaboring the point. The Lions were going to be better offensively this year, partly because of the improved line that would benefit from the return of a healthy LaAdrian Waddle.
Spoiler alert: None of the above happened.
Waddle doesn't carry the same confidence he held as a precocious rookie. He had no business being so good in 2013, but now he has no business being a starting right tackle.
The numbers paint an even bleaker picture. Waddle has allowed 23 quarterback hurries, five sacks and six hits, which have led to him grading out as the 77th-best tackle in the league, ahead of Baltimore's James Hurst.
As you probably guessed, there's nobody behind Hurst.
Most Improved Player
There was one preseason prediction that came true.
Tight end Eric Ebron, who was famously drafted 10th overall before Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Giants wide receiver/Madden cover boy Odell Beckham Jr., has been better. The only issue has been health.
Despite playing only five games, Ebron leads the team with three touchdowns to pair with his 23 receptions for 292 yards. Those aren't great numbers, but they're trending in the right direction, especially considering how much more comfortable he looks on the field.
Ebron narrowly edged out Theo Riddick for this honor. The running back has been good, but it isn't necessarily a sign of improvement so much as use that has turned him into a viable flex fantasy option.
Most Disappointing Player
The whole team was considered here, but that's too on the nose.
And Matthew Stafford, along with a host of other players, was also considered. The only saving grace for the signal-caller was his offensive line, and that's the first time that statement been written this year.
That leaves us with Ameer Abdullah.
The rookie running back set the bar high with 67 yards against the New York Jets in the preseason. Of particular note was his 45-yard dash that came via a nasty cut and a quick burst. The kid looked ready to revitalize a moribund running game.
But both of those things have been in short supply during the regular season. The same offensive line that bailed out its quarterback deserves some of the blame here, although his lack of opportunities has been the result of his poor ball security.
Abdullah has dropped the ball three times on offense and once more during a kick return. It seems the only ones who fear Ameer are his offensive coaches, considering he only received one carry and two targets against the Chiefs.
If only Jim Caldwell had given the media a chance. He could have seen we're a swell bunch that doesn't dwell on the negative. How else can you explain an MVP section?
Obviously, nobody on the offensive side of the ball deserves the love here. There's nothing valuable about scoring 1.5 fewer points per game than last year's toothless attack.
Yet scouring the defensive side of the roster isn't enlightening either. The Lions are dead last in points allowed at 30.6 per contest.
However, Ezekiel Ansah has played too well to be ignored. He leads the team in quarterback hurries (19), hits (six) and sacks (five), is fourth on the team with 16 defensive stops, and he accomplishes all of this despite being the only pass-rushing threat along the front four.
While many of general manager Martin Mayhew's gambles haven't paid off, the kid from Ghana via BYU was the right choice with the fifth pick a few years ago. And sadly, that's enough to be considered this team's most valuable player.
All advanced stats, grades and positional rankings are courtesy of Pro Football Focus.