Detroit Lions 2009 Season Review Part One: Offense
The Lions offense was inconsistent throughout the season. It was almost unpredictable. The only thing you could be sure of was that you couldn't be sure of anything.
Let's start with the quarterback position and work our way around.
Matthew Stafford played like a rookie for the majority of the season, but he also proved that he is the guy for the foreseeable future.
He threw plenty of interceptions (20, to only 13 touchdowns), however, those 13 scores set a rookie record for a Lions quarterback. He also threw or ran for a touchdown in each of his 10 starts.
The major concern with him for 2010 will be his health. He injured his non-throwing shoulder against Cleveland and proved that it was too much for him to handle—despite his heroics in that game, and the miracle that he could even play on Thanksgiving.
He also has that knee to worry about, which is likely the biggest concern. He had a successful surgery on that knee, but that doesn't mean it won't be a problem in the future. Those knee injuries have a tendency to pop back up throughout a career. One bad move and he could be done for.
Drew Stanton will likely continue his role as a backup, at least for 2010. He is not a starter anywhere in the NFL. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw the Lions use the seventh round draft choice on a potential third-string quarterback so they can spend their free agent money on more important things.
Moving on to the running backs: the Lions appear to be at a crossroads. Kevin Smith suffered ligament damage in his knee and is questionable for the start of the 2010 preseason.
He was having a good season before he went down. He was poised for 1,000 yards, and if the Lions had given him more carries early in the season he could have flirted with 1,200 or more. The trouble was, they were not giving him carries. In 13 starts he averaged 16.7 carries-per-game. This is not nearly enough to establish a good running attack.
Maurice Morris did well in backup duty. The Arizona game was the Lions best rushing game of the year, and Morris averaged 7.4 yards in only 17 tries.
The fact that he ran slightly better in those three games than Smith did over a course of the season has to be cause for concern. We can't write off Smith completely without taking into account the small sample size from Maurice Morris.
The receivers showed the same inconsistency as the rest of the team. Not even Calvin Johnson was a constant, since he was being doubled every game and he missed a couple games with a minor knee injury.
That said, he still had a decent year. He caught 67 passes for 984 yards and five scores. Considering he was being double covered almost every snap, that isn't bad at all.
The team was unable to get him any support. Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt had a few flashes of talent, but overall they proved that they are not NFL quality starters. With someone else on the field who can be a threat, Calvin will have more chances to get open and make plays with his enormous talent.
Brandon Pettigrew has been, and probably will continue to be, a source of debate for the Lions. He was taken with a high second round pick and many people thought that it was a waste.
I contend that it was not.
Pettigrew caught 30 passes for 546 yards and a pair of touchdowns before injuring his knee on Thanksgiving. He looked like a disappointment early, but got much better as the season moved forward. Time will tell, but I think Pettigrew can become a good tight end.He won't be elite like Tony Gonzalez or Todd Heap, but he can at least be the best Lions tight end since David Sloan.
The offensive line was another inconsistent part of the team. There were so many changes in the unit's personnel that it was hard for them to mesh as a unit. There were so many injuries, shuffling of positions, and players benched that it almost became tough to remember who was out there.
The front five need lots of help, there is no denying that. They have had Jeff Backus in there for way too long, and they could use a new guy in his spot. Backus could probably still play guard, but not tackle—where he has to deal with the speed of outside pass rushers.
Dominic Raiola is doing fine, plus he is one of the team's big leaders. Jon Jansen turned out to be a huge disappointment.
The offense as a whole showed flashes of brilliance a couple times this season. The Cleveland game is the main example, but even in the closing weeks against Arizona and Chicago, the offense produced at the end of the game.
The problem was they never put together a full four quarters. They always seemed to do well part of the game—usually the third quarter—but it happened at other times too. Next year they will have to play the whole game.
Hopefully experience for Stafford and some better receivers through free agency can make a difference. The team will also look to make the line better. I expect a lineman to be taken in the second round of the draft.
The Lions offensive season was marked by flashes of great things to come, scattered about many bad points. The team has a lot to improve upon in 2010, but at least a couple of the pieces to success appear to be in place with Stafford and Johnson.
Some support for Calvin, a more present running game, and an offensive line that can have the chance to gel together can lead the team out of offensive ineptness.
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