Defensive Secondary Is the Fly in the Detroit Lions Kool-Aid
It reads like a murderers' row of quarterbacks feared by NFL defenses everywhere for their rocket arms, steely dispositions, wide-screen vision and deft touch.
Err, no...it reads exactly the opposite of that.
Rodgers (twice), Favre (twice), Cutler (twice), Kolb, Manning (Eli), McNabb, Sanchez, Edwards, Romo, Brady, Freeman, Henne...
It's true that Drew Brees and Big Brother Manning aren't on this second list, but it is exponentially more impressive than the former and represents the quality of quarterbacks that the Detroit Lions will actually be playing in the regular season.
And it's these names that have been swirling around my mind lately as I try to honestly gauge what to expect from the Detroit Lions in the 2010 season.
There's much to like about the Lions under the management of Martin Mayhew, Jim Schwartz, and Tom Lewand. They've filled more holes than even the most optimistic of the Lions faithful thought possible in an offseason highlighted by savvy trades, clever talent evaluation, and tactical draft execution.
We've got a promising young quarterback with a slew of weapons, an O-line that is firmly mediocre (a welcomed step up from terrible), and a running back that is conjuring dreams of Barry Sanders in our heads.
We've got an elite receiver, a couple very good tight ends, and a good No. 2.
We've got a revamped defensive line that already appears to be paying dividends, a No. 2 draft pick that has a propensity for decapitating quarterbacks, and a revitalized veteran capable of bringing the heat around the end.
Unfortunately, that is where the story ends.
It is tough to take a whole lot away from preseason games, particularly in the win/loss department, and it is true that some important players in the Detroit Lions secondary weren't always at full strength.
But a general look at the numbers can reveal some telling things, and when it comes to the worst defense the league has ever seen (having broken the former record for points allowed in back to back seasons) it's hard to see how things are going to be much different.
Facing the "murderers' row" of quarterbacks listed at the beginning of this article, the Lions allowed a 66 percent completion percentage and an 84.7 QB rating, which admittedly, is marginally better than they fared last season (68 percent completion percentage). Note that QB rating has been normalized to account for the number of attempts thrown by each quarterback faced so far.
Well that's improvement isn't it? Not so fast.
The next split is truly terrifying.
When figuring in the quarterbacks who are set to start for their teams and saw good portions of the Lions No. 1 defense, the completion percentage jumps to an unheard of 79 percent and an astronomical QB rating of 113.5!
To put that in perspective, that's higher than Drew Brees' insane rating of 109.6 last year.
Granted, Delmas has been injured and many in the secondary are new and still finding their place in the defense, but from what we've seen in the preseason, there is little reason to expect that the Lions won't be getting scored on early and often throughout the 2010 season.
Our new defensive line is paying dividends (3.5 yards per rush vs. 4.4 last year) and they are starting to generate pressure in opposing backfields and they will get even better as those parts start to click and as Suh comes into his own.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Lions still can't cover, and that goes for the injury-riddled inexperienced line-backing core as well.
This is something most of us knew coming into this year of course, but as the season approaches the Kool-Aid gets increasingly spiked with that silver moonshine, and the Honolulu blue high is more akin to the Maui Wowie.
And that's OK!
We Lions fans will take our highs when we can get them.
But while the Lions are quietly becoming a sexy sleeper team in the league, with endorsements from the likes of Bill Simmons and Mike Lombardi, let's just remember that the sexy sleeper doesn't always look so hot in the morning.
So enjoy this team for what it is, my friends, and save the playoff predictions for next year when they are truly attainable.
One way or another, rooting for the Lions will be a joy this year with lots of high-scoring affairs, lead changes, and quick strikes.
And that serves my interest just fine.
Kool Aid anyone?
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