Detroit Lions: Statistical Projections for Calvin Johnson and Co. in 2011
For the Detroit Lions the 2010 season was never about winning the Super Bowl. It was about rectifying wrongs within the organization and establishing an identity.
Led by a foundation of young play-makers, the Lions finished the 2010 regular season on a four game win streak that has rejuvenated the franchise.
It seems as if Detroit has finally assembled the offensive fire power necessary to contend in the NFC North’s “Black and Blue” division and return to NFL legitimacy.
However, the road to success is a long winding one.
The Detroit Lions annually enjoy one of the National Football Leagues most ruthless schedules.
With away games at Tampa Bay, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, and Green Bay, the Lions will be tested early and often.
Fortunately for the Lions, it looks as if the organization has finally put itself in the position to be competitive, week in and week out.
Here are my projections for some of Detroit’s youngest brightest stars in 2011.
Rookie Running Back Mikel Leshoure
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leshoure is a durable, bruising power back with the ability to break off big runs. Leshoure’s game is not specifically predicated on his power rushing style though; Mikel’s quick feet and elusiveness allow him to make defenders miss in open space.
Detroit will look to establish the run early in 2011, and it looks as if Mikel’s “specific role” will be to pound opposing defenses, opening holes for speedy 2nd year back Jahvid Best.
Early projections have Detroit utilizing Best and Leshoure just as Carolina used DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart in Stewart’s rookie year for the Panthers.
Though entering the 2011 season as the “backup,” I look at Leshoure as the “franchise” back and someone that Detroit can lean on late in close games.
2011 Projections: 201 Carries - 825 Rushing Yards - 7 Receptions - 61 Receiving Yards - 9 Total Touchdowns
Rookie Wide Receiver Titus Young
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
During the Draft, one NFL general manager described Young as a "stick of dynamite."
With great hands and 4.4 speed, expect Young to be integrated into Detroit’s passing game almost immediately.
Detroit will look to create mismatches both out wide and in the slot utilizing Young’s blazing speed.
Titus Young will benefit most from constant two shell defensive formations necessary to contain Calvin Johnson. A two shell defense consists of two safeties over top, almost assuredly garnering Young an outside linebacker or nickel corner in coverage.
He is a solid bet for at least 5-6 targets a game.
Though some compare Young to Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, I would compare him more to Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin from a contribution stand point.
All it takes for a young receiver to blow up is talent and opportunity (see Mike Wallace.) Titus Young is good for at least three ESPN highlight appearances in 2011.
2011 Projections: 31 Receptions - 425 Yards - 4 Touchdowns
Tight End Brandon Pettigrew
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Pettigrew enjoyed a break out year in 2010, finishing third in receiving yards among all tight ends. It was a year that should have garnered him his first Pro Bowl selection.
Pettigrew is a star on the rise.
He is the legitimate number two option on the Detroit Lions offense and has a high propensity to make plays when called upon.
Only the talent surrounding him will stop Pettigrew from putting up prolific numbers as a part of Detroit’s young offense in 2011.
2011 Projections: 62 Receptions - 696 Yards - 9 Touchdowns
Running Back Jahvid Best
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
When referencing Best’s 2010 season all you can think of is what could have been. Jahvid Best absolutely exploded out of the gates, scoring two touchdowns in each of his two first games. He was everything as advertised coming out of Cal and more.
Though dual turf toe injuries hindered him for the remainder of the year, Best showed veteran ability to play through injury.
Enter rookie power back Mikel Leshoure.
The addition of Leshoure should equalize the load allowing Best to attack opposing defenses with unparalleled explosiveness at a more consistent level.
Best is a true dual offensive threat out of the back field. Only five backs had more receptions than Best had in 2010, despite the fact he was forced to play sparingly due to injury.
2011 Projections: 221 Carries - 756 Rushing Yards - 56 Receptions - 426 Receiving Yards - 11 Total Touchdowns
Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Despite playing for three different quarterbacks in the 2010 season, Johnson still managed 1,120 yards receiving, 12 touchdowns and a trip to Honolulu.
At 6’5 236 pounds Calvin Johnson is a powerful high flying red zone monster.
Take late ‘90s Randy Moss and combine him with Andre Johnson, and you’ve got Megatron.
For the first time in his entire career, Johnson is surrounded by legitimate game-changing play-makers.
Somebody in this Detroit Lions offense is going to have a Pro Bowl year, and it might as well be Calvin…again.
If Matthew Stafford remains healthy, the duo of Stafford and Calvin Johnson becomes the most feared in the entire National Football League.
2011 Projections: 94 Receptions - 1,600 Yards - 15 Touchdowns
Quarterback Matthew Stafford
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
When you speak of Detroit Lions former number one overall selection Matthew Stafford you speak of potential and ability.
Stafford has a laser rocket arm, something strongly relied upon in a pass-heavy Scott Linehan offense.
He's surrounded by weapons, and assuming he stays healthy, is poised for a breakout season in 2011.
The Stafford/Johnson connection has the potential to be lethal, but the Stafford/Best connection has the potential to be devastating. Regardless of who Stafford is throwing to, he needs to stay healthy for Detroit to enjoy any success in 2011.
When Stafford did play in 2010, he looked impressive. Look for Stafford to build on a strong offseason in which he has been cleared by doctors to be 100% healthy.
2011 Projections: 309 Completions - 529 Attempts - 3,700 Yards Passing - 39 Touchdowns - 13 Interceptions