Pretty Much Screwed: The 2013-14 Detroit Lions

  • Jake O'Donnell

NFL Season Preview
Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NFL season. This team-by-team preview details why your favorite franchise might have to start looking forward to next year — and highlights at least one reason for you to be hopeful. Today: The city of Detroit and the thing they refer to as their football team.

It’s been a rough year for Detroit. Check that, it’s been a rough last 40 years for Detroit. Not only does it hold the title of murder capital, USA, but also is on the short list of major cities that have declared bankruptcy. Then there’s this strange weekly event that takes place there from September to December. I don’t really know how to describe it, but sometimes the people of Detroit congregate on Sundays to watch it on their old fashioned tube televisions, hoping it will make them forget that they live in Detroit. It’s like an escape for them, but not, because it’s just as bad as everything else in Detroit. I think it’s technically a football team, but I can’t be sure, because football teams aren’t supposed to be so damn depressing. Also, from what I gather, football teams tend to run the ball occasionally. I’ll assume for the sake of this discussion, the 2013 Detroit Lions qualify as a team — but the jury is still out on whether that team qualifies as one of the “football” variety.

Let’s begin by addressing the elephant in the room:

Get that fucking elephant out of the room. No pets in the office, you guys. Thank you.

The Detroit Lions have probably the least imaginative offense in the league. Last season, they threw the football more than any team in football. In fact, Matt Stafford aired it out 727 times, which is 50 more than the next guy on the pass attempts list (Drew Brees) and almost 170 more than Aaron Rodgers (the best passer in the world with no running game to speak of.) That’s a lot of throwing. What was the result?

Twenty TDs and a 4-12 season.

Now, it bears mentioning everyone’s favorite football factoid, that Calvin Johnson was tackled on the 1-yard line six times last season, so some of those passing statistics are a bit skewed. However, the fact remains: This team plays every down like it’s in the middle of a two minute drill. If you think that will change by signing Reggie Bush — you’re wrong, because he’s not an every down back, and he’ll just end up as a decoy for Megatron, wandering around the flats like a crazy person in the desert.

Are you expecting a flex player like Bush to turn this team into a 50/50 balanced offense? Of course not. He’ll just have a really good view of the Calvin Johnson show.

To be honest, the Detroit Lions really do seem to have one objective, and that is to get him the ball. They don’t even care if they win games. As long as he gets his touches.

It’s the Barry Sanders syndrome. Megatron is so good, that his team suffers because they’re afraid of not making him a part of every god damn play. At some point, defenses catch on, and all his super-human talent ceases to matter. Consider this:

They threw the ball substantially more than any team in football, yet had the 20th most passing yards. Guys, this plan’s not working.

To make matters worse, veteran tackle Jeff Backus retired this offseason, and Gosder Charilus (who is human, despite having the name of a Star Wars bounty hunter) is now in Indy. That leaves more than a few questions for a very important offensive line. You’d think they’d have addressed this, considering the amount of time Stafford spends in the backfield looking for Calvin Johnson, but they haven’t. Just Reggie Bush. Sorry, but he’s not a solution to the leaky O-line.

On the other side of the ball, you have the best pass rush in football, lead by All-Pro Ndamukong Suh, and Cliff Avril…what’s that? They were 20th in the league last year in sacks? But aren’t they supposed to be this machine that eats quarterbacks? Didn’t they go up against the hapless Green Bay Packers line twice last year? How’d they not come away with, like, a hundred sacks from those games alone?

Believe it: The Detroit Lions defense kind of/definitely sucks. So I guess it makes sense why they pass the ball so much — they’re always playing from behind. Screwed.

You know how we know the defense sucks? They drafted DE Ziggy Ansah with the 5th overall pick in the 2013 draft. Ya, they knew the secret was out that they’re not as ferocious as advertised, and scrambled to piece together a squad that might crack the top ten in any defensive category. Which it won’t, because their secondary sucks way, way more.

Now, there’s no perfect way to measure how good a team’s pass defense is, but a few statistics are telling. Like number of interceptions (11).

When you throw 17 picks because you’re constantly passing the ball, you need to be able to offset those turnovers. The Detroit Lions didn’t do that last year, seeing as they were third worst in turnover differential (-16).

Another way to judge a team’s defense, is by watching how they judge it themselves. Catch this:

[Via ESPN] In the past two days, the Detroit Lions have signed a 34-year-old defensive tackle and a 30-year-old linebacker. They’ve also made plans to work out a soon-to-be 33-year-old cornerback while also signing a rookie defensive lineman whose checkered past left him unsigned when training camp began.

Why you might not be screwed: Calvin Johnson is arguably the best pass catcher ever, and Reggie Bush will only make him more open. In Miami, Bush averaged around 1,000 yards rushing and 300 yards receiving in two seasons. That should get him some attention from opposing defenses — opening things up for ol’ big hands. Also, he gives the Lions an under route to go to when Johnson is quadruple teamed and Clay Mathews is about to rip Matt Stafford’s head off.

Actual prediction: 9-7. Won’t make the playoffs, nor will you get a top draft pick. Oops!