Detroit Lions 2009 Season Preview
Today’s Detroit Lions preview is written by Kenny Bernat, one of the writers in the Divisionaries’ Chicago office.
John Kitna and Dan Orlovsky were the Bebop and Rocksteady to their Shredder, Rod Marinelli, who would eventually take a position as defensive line coach with the Chicago Bears after he was fired. Things became worse when defensive end Corey Smith’s boat capsized off the Coast of Florida. Disappearing out to sea or putting on a Lions jersey for another year? Okay, the comparison might be a little on the cruel side, but the Lions’ historically bad 2008 season would have been as valid an excuse as any for staying out at sea.
For the 2009 season, the Lions changed their logo to a more ferocious lion — which was promptly met with public mockery. Nothing says intimidation quite like Jason Hanson missing an extra point in a dome with a lion on his helmet that is supposed to spell out S-T-R-E-E-T C-R-E-D.
So, where do you go after 0-16? Luckily for the battered city there’s only one direction: up.
Okay, there’s also sideways.
The Detroit Lions picked Matthew Stafford with their first pick in a draft more desolate than a ghost town. It’s a knee jerk reaction to call Stafford an underachiever just because the top three quarterbacks in college all decided to stay in school for another year. However, Stafford has raw talent that if utilized by the right coaching staff could bloom in the next two to three years. His arm strength, pocket presence and big receiving targets might end up surprising critics. Most likely, Duante Culpepper will get the start until Detroit green lights Stafford, leaving Drew Stanton in charge of making hot chocolate for those cold away games. Although, judging by the Lions’ two preseason games so far, the team’s patience with Stafford is comparable to a person sleeping through a 3 a.m. car alarm.
One area you can count on is the Lions’ receiving core. If the O-Line gives Stafford enough time to throw, we may witness a sea change in Detroit’s offense. Calvin Johnson has been the real deal since breaking out at Georgia Tech. If he was on any team with a decent quarterback we would be talking a top three receiver, and you could argue that in spite of this deficiency he’s already on that short list.
A fantastic pick at tight end, Brandon Pettigrew, soared with Oklahoma State’s run and gun offense which should put him above the usual learning curve. In the ever-evolving pro offense, tight ends have taken the Lion’s share (ha!) of catches, which is fitting for the NFC North’s quarterback to tight end combos. Slot receivers like Keary Colbert and Dennis Northcutt fill out the versatile passing attack to insure the offensive stability. Opening those passing lanes is running back Kevin Smith, who was one of the few glimmers of sunshine for last year’s three-and-out offense. With a shade under a 1,000 yards last year on the ground, look for him to have a breakout year if the Lions can find a healthy balance on offense.
Do I really have to mention their defense? Every time they gain a good defensive tackle they end up trading him away or losing them to free agency. Same story here — like Shaun Rogers the year before, Corey Redding was the latest to go. The only anchors are at linebacker in Ernie Simms and Julian Peterson. The defensive backs range from veterans to untested obscure cornerbacks that lack any character.
Don’t expect to see the defense perform any better this year. The catalyst to Detroit finally getting their wheels in motion is the offense. But don’t expect the cowardly Lions to be bigger and better in ’09. Instead, Lions fans would be better served by hoping this year’s scarecrow of a team can get its mind right and avoid making more of the mental miscues that have doomed the team to its perennial status as NFC North basement dweller.
Prediction: 3-13, with a 80% chance for more paper bags.
Next week’s preview: Big Bad Brett and the Minnesota Vikings.
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