2015 NFL Preview: Detroit Lions

2015 NFL Preview: Detroit Lions

Believe it or not, the 2014 Detroit Lions went 11-5 on the strength of their defense, a unit that ranked number one against the rush and number three in points allowed. First-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin injected intensity, enthusiasm, and discipline into a group that struggled in all of those areas for years. On the other hand, the offense was wildly inconsistent due in part to a plodding run game and a leaky offensive line. The loss of a franchise cornerstone in free agency leaves a massive hole on defense, and a brutal schedule chock-full of challenging opponents puts the Lions in an uphill climb once the season kicks off. Here’s a preview of the 2015 Detroit Lions.

Outlook: The Bears kinda stink, and the Vikings might be improved. This gives the Lions some hope that they can keep a grip on second place in the division. Lest we forget, they split with the Packers a season ago, and held a 14-point lead against the Cowboys in the Wildcard round before squandering it late. Entering this season, the backfield is suspect and Calvin Johnson seems like he’s always dinged. If the offense finds consistency and the defense survives the departure of its most dominant piece, the Lions will contend for a second straight playoff berth. If not, they will be fortunate to reach .500.

Later, dude: Some guy named Suh signed a $114 million deal with the Dolphins. He’s a reliable force in the middle off any defense, but the front office was wise to let him walk. Or they were incredibly stupid. History will be the judge. Fellow defensive tackle Nick Fairley was oft injured and oft immature during his four years in Detroit; he joined a loaded Rams front four in free agency. Reggie Bush never lived up to the hype (shocking, right) in two seasons, so he’s now a 49er, which is his fourth team in five years. Reserve D-tackle C.J. Mosley shuffled off to Miami with Suh, leaving the Lions front four searching for quality depth.

Welcome aboard: Haloti Ngata was acquired via trade with Baltimore to help offset the void left by Suh. Ngata is aging and already sitting out training camp with a bad hammy, but should be effective when healthy. Guard/tackle Manny Ramirez returns to the franchise that drafted him after spending four solid seasons in Denver’s high octane attack; he won’t solve all the line’s woes, but he represents a definite upgrade. Rookie guard Laken Tomlinson could challenge for playing time early, and ditto for second-round running back Ameer Abdullah. Backup cornerback Chris Owens is average at best, but he brings veteran depth to the secondary.

Over/Under wins – 8.5: Check out these two three-game stretches gifted by the NFL schedule-makers: DEN, SEA, ARZ and PHI, GB, STL. Whew! Just not feeling the Lions this year.

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