Tuesday, August 18, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Detroit Lions

DETROIT LIONS                                                          

2014 Record: 11-5-0 (2nd in NFC North)

HEAD COACH: Jim Caldwell

New Players in 2015 - DL Haloti Ngata; DL Phillip Hunt; OL Manny Ramirez; DB Josh Wilson; DL Tyrunn Walker.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 19th in NFL (340.8 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 2nd in NFL (300.9 ypg)

Offense:  Quarterback Matthew Stafford (4,257 passing yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions) will be the starter once again after a decent 2014 season. Either Kellen Moore or Dan Orlovsky will be the primary backup.
The running game will see Joique Bell leading the way after he led the team with 860 rushing yards (3.9 ypc average) and scored seven touchdowns. Rookie Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) and Theo Riddick will fill in when needed.
The wide receiving tandem of Calvin Johnson (71 receptions for 1,077 yards with eight TD) and Golden Tate (99 receptions for 1,331 yards and four TD) is as good as any in pro football. Corey Fuller (14, 212, one TD), Lance Moore and TJ Jones are on hand as reserves. The tight ends are Eric Ebron (25, 248, one TD) and Brandon Pettigrew.
The line has center Travis Swanson, guards Larry Warford and either rookie Laken Tomlinson (Duke) or Manny Ramirez and tackles Riley Reiff and LaAdrian Waddle. 

Defense:  Haloti Ngata (two QB sacks) takes over up front at tackle for the departed Ndamukong Suh (now in Miami) while Tyrunn Walker (2 1/2 sacks) takes over for Nick Fairley, who also left after last season. The ends are Jason Jones (five sacks) and Ezekiel Ansah, who had 7 1/2 sacks last year.
The linebackers include Stephen Tulloch in the middle with Kyle Van Noy and DeAndre Levy on the outside. Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis provide depth.
The secondary has Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay (two interceptions) at cornerback while the safeties are James Ihedigbo (four picks) and Glover Quin, who led the NFL with seven interceptions last season.  Bill Bentley, Josh Wilson and rookie Alex Carter (Stanford) will backup at the corners while Isa Abdul-Quddus and Don Carey provide depth at the safety spots.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  The Lions offensive production dipped last season as Stafford didn't put up the gaudy, eye popping numbers as in season's past.
A big reason the offense slipped was the running game ranked 28th in the league, averaging just 89 yards per game. The Lions will be counting on Bell and (rookie) Abdullah to get those numbers back to respectability.
Opposing defenses can tee off on Stafford (he was sacked 45 times a year ago) once again unless that running game keeps them on their heels. The Detroit wideouts are among the best in the NFL as Johnson and Tate each had over 1,000-yards receiving last year so that will be important once again for the team's offense as they put up over 600 passes.
The defense will be going through changes in personnel up front as the team's three leading tacklers from a year ago all are gone elsewhere and in their place are two proven defensive linemen in Ngata and Walker.
The secondary was solid, picking off 20 passes while the Lions accumulated 42 quarterback sacks. Their run defense ranked at the top of the NFL, giving up just 69 rushing yards per game. They key will be whether the Lions can do that again or at least come close to those numbers.
The team was steady under Head Coach Jim Caldwell and he would like to see more of the same this season as the team lost in a controversial filled finish to Dallas in the Wild Card round of the NFC Playoffs last year.
 An 8-8 finish is most likely to happen this season as the team will play a rough schedule. Playing in the NFC North along with their 2015 schedule will make it tough for the Lions to repeat their best record (11-5) since the 1991 season, but if they can get off to a good start, it's not out of the question.

Week 1 - at San Diego Chargers
Week 2 - at Minnesota Vikings
Week 3 - vs. Denver Broncos
Week 4 - at Seattle Seahawks
Week 5 - vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 6 - vs. Chicago Bears
Week 7 - vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 8 - at Kansas City Chiefs (London, England)
Week 9 - BYE WEEK
Week 10 - at Green Bay Packers
Week 11 - vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 12 - vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 13 - vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 14 - at St. Louis Rams
Week 15 - at New Orleans Saints
Week 16 - vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 17 - at Chicago Bears

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