2010 NFL Predictions: Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are still a year or two away from truly contending in the NFC North.
However, they are no longer the laughing stock of the NFL. With the additions of Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams, Nate Burleson, and Tony Scheffler through free agency, the Lions are much more talented than previous years.
First round draft picks Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best will have an instant impact for the Lions, and each has the potential to be stars in the NFL.
With the recent release of defensive back Daniel Bullocks, every draft pick that Matt Millen made between 2002 and 2006 is now off of the Lions roster.
This is Martin Mayhew's team now, and 2010 is a crucial year to see progress from the Detroit Lions.
Here is a season preview of the 2010 Detroit Lions.
At long last, it appears the Lions may have finally found their franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford.
By the numbers, Stafford struggled in his rookie season, but he earned the respect of his teammates and he showed that he can play in this league.
Stafford was also hampered by injuries last season, but his game-winning touchdown pass versus Cleveland with a separated shoulder proved that he is willing to play through pain.
Stafford will need to mature and make better decisions in order to decrease his interception total from last year, when he threw 20.
With a slightly improved offensive line and an increase in weapons around him, Stafford could make the leap to becoming a star quarterback in the NFL this season.
While Kevin Smith is recovering from a late-season knee injury, Jahvid Best is taking over the starting position at running back for 2010.
The Lions traded up with the Minnesota Vikings to grab Best with the 30th pick in the first round of last April's draft. Many analysts questioned Best's health, and if it weren't for one freak play his senior season, Best would have been selected much higher.
Fans should remember that Best was leaping into the end zone for a touchdown on the play he was injured.
The rookie running back from Cal should become the Lions' best running back since Barry Sanders. Although Best won't become as good as Sanders, his speed and agility should make him a very elusive runner in the NFL.
Kevin Smith will not be forgotten in 2010 either. Smith will play a large role in the Lions' offense, but he will not be depended on as heavily now that Best is in town.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Detroit's pass catching unit is filled with talent this year, and the only question here is whether there will be enough balls to go around for everyone.
Calvin Johnson is the leader of this group. After a disappointing 2009 campaign, No. 81 will be looking to post some big-time numbers in 2010. Johnson has all of the talent and skills necessary to become an elite receiver in the NFL, and it's now his time to step up and become that superstar.
Newcomers Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler will help take pressure off of Johnson. Burleson will start opposite of Johnson, while Scheffler may be used in a role that is similar to how the Colts use Dallas Clark.
Tight end Brandon Pettigrew was well on his way to having an impressive rookie season until a knee injury ended his season on Thanksgiving. If Pettigrew gets healthy and continues to improve, he can easily become an elite tight end in the NFL.
This unit has not been good for a long time in Detroit. In 2009, Detroit's offensive line once again failed to keep their quarterback healthy and upright.
The Lions added guard Rob Sims from Seattle with hopes of ending the revolving door at left guard for at least one season.
Veterans Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola have each struggled throughout their careers for the Lions, and they must step up their performances this year. Look for the Lions to use a high draft pick on either of these positions next April.
Gosder Cherilus has played inconsistently at right tackle since getting drafted, and Jon Jansen will continue to push him for that starting position.
One of the Lions' weakest units in 2009 may be their strongest in 2010.
Detroit vastly upgraded their defensive line in the offseason by drafting Ndamukong Suh and signing Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams in free agency.
The Lions are counting on this unit to mask some holes in the rest of the defense this year.
If Suh plays as good as advertised, he will instantly be a difference maker in the NFL. If he fails, draft experts and analysis can pretty much throw out everything because there has not been one negative word said about Suh.
Vanden Bosch was signed as soon as free agency started in the spring. Head coach Jim Schwartz was allegedly sitting in his driveway to ensure that his former defensive end from Tennessee would join him in Detroit.
Lions fans are expecting a lot from this unit in 2010, and the Lions' season will be determined by how the line performs.
Julian Peterson, DeAndre Levy, and Zack Follett will most likely make up the Lions' starting linebacker core to start the 2010 season.
Levy had an impressive rookie campaign with 85 tackles, and Peterson had 76 tackles in addition to five forced fumbles.
Internet sensation Zack Follett will replace Ernie Sims, who was traded to Philadelphia in the offseason. Follett, a seventh-round pick in 2009, made an instant impact on special teams last year, and the Lions coaching staff has put a lot of faith in his abilities.
Follett has become best-known for playing with grown lions in sanctuaries and training at 8,000 feet. Needless to say, he is taking his promotion to the starting lineup very seriously, and he could become a force in the Lions' defense this year.
Last year's second round pick, Louis Delmas, had an outstanding rookie season in 2009. Delmas returned a fumble and an interception for touchdowns while racking up 94 total tackles.
As for the rest of the secondary, there are many questions that are still left to be answered.
The aging Dre Bly was recently signed to take over one of the cornerback positions. Jonathon Wade was signed from St. Louis, and the Lions also traded away two draft picks to Atlanta to acquire Chris Houston.
Amari Spievey was selected in the third round of the draft, and he should be a starter on one side.
Spievey and Delmas appear to be the future of the Lions' secondary, and Houston could also play a major role for Detroit going forward.
Given the youth and inexperience from this core, the Lions are still a year or two away from having a solid secondary.
The Lions have a very difficult schedule this fall, but they will play no cold weather games, as they travel to Florida twice in December.
Here is a game-by-game prediction for Detroit in 2010:
@ Chicago - loss
Philadelphia - win
@ Minnesota - loss
@ Green Bay - loss
St. Louis - win
@ NY Giants - loss
Washington - win
NY Jets - loss
@ Buffalo - win
@ Dallas - loss
New England - loss
Chicago - win
Green Bay - loss
@ Tampa Bay - win
@ Miami - loss
Minnesota - loss
Final Prediction: 6-10, 4th place in NFC North