In a matter of months, NFL fans around the globe will be spending their Sundays with the tube turned off, their office computer used for business and not fantasy trading, and (gulp) losing their excuse to avoid Sunday work. Bottom line, it will be a somber fall in 2011 if there is no professional football, but it won’t be as bad for some teams, like the Detroit Lions.
The Lions are one of the few teams that could actually see some light in this year’s lockout (what was that? Light for the Lions?!). With these five reasons Lions fans all over the nation will have justification to take this football-less fall a little less lightly.
Right now as you read this, the Lions are sitting with the third most difficult schedule in the NFL, and I doubt they would miss dodging it that much. They may miss the opportunity to shut up naysayers, but if they have another sub-.500 season, you will hear nothing but more negativity from the fans and have that damaging aura in the locker room again.
Missing the first Monday Night Football game since Lincoln was in office would be quite the bummer for Detroit, but more than likely it will be made up the year after with an even better Lions team than you will see in 2011.
Once 2012 rolls around Detroit doesn’t have a whole lot to worry about as far as free agents go. The big names that will be unrestricted free agents are Shaun Hill, Jeff Backus and Nate Vasher, and any of those can be replaced by a trade, singing or draft pick very easily.
As far as all the other NFC North teams go, they have some star-studded issues to deal with in that off-season. Players such as Al Harris, Brian Urlacher and Adrian Peterson will have the option to go anywhere, and I’m not saying they will lean to other options, but it’s just going to be another hassle that the Lions won’t have to deal with some 2012.
Every rookie’s development will be stunted due to the lockout, but the Lions rooks have an unseen advantage amongst all other teams, for two reason in particular. The first reason is that the Lion’s will be working out, like many other teams, but their rookies can use the workouts to turn themselves from mediocre players to good or even impactful players for Detroit. For example, Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure was unheard of to many fans, even the diehards, to college football fans. Leshoure’s style of pounding the rock between the tackles is something that can be incredibly enhanced in the weight room, which is where players will practically live this fall if there is no football to be played.
Another positive is that Nick Fairley and Titus Young will be working with some of the best mentors in the game, Suh and Johnson. Both are gifted athletes and hold a great image in the eyes of the community, both of which are great in NFL development. So an entire fall off the field may mean losing valuable playing time, but it will be made up in the best possible way by training alongside pro-bowlers and role-models in order to mold themselves into the best possible players.
The four most pivotal players for the Lions, in my mind, (Ndamukong Suh, Matt Stafford, Jahvid Best and Calvin Johnson) are all 25 or younger, making them the youngest core in the NFL. Missing a year for these players will only put them another year towards their prime when other teams, especially in the NFC North, are getting older at their skill positions.
A young and electric offensive skill set combined with a fresh and physical defensive front is key to any team, and with the Lions being one of the very few teams with both of those, they should be feeling very comfortable in 2012 even without playing a game this season.
Weeks after Matthew Stafford damaged his shoulder for the third time in his young career, Lions linebacker Zack Follet was quoted in saying that his quarterback is a “china doll.” Quite frankly, who could blame him?
Stafford seems to go down at any hard hit now, and you could only imagine how fragile that shoulder is right about now. Taking a year off to rehab and workout the gun may be the best thing to happen to the Lions in the last decade, because one full year of not getting decked by a linebacker is huge to a QB’s health.
Stafford has also shown an immense amount of promise so far, and if he performs well next year get ready to have the roar to be restored in Detroit football.