Depth, Not Talent, is Lions Biggest Problem

I offer Saturday’s first preseason game as exhibit A in evidence of my headline.

Hey, that first quarter was pretty awesome.

It’s Preseason

Every year it’s the same standard cry. “It’s the preseason. The only goal is to stay healthy.” Yes, obviously. But does even the most disillusioned Lions fan want to argue that the performance from the first teams yesterday was anything short of encouraging?

From the defensive line eating up yards in split seconds pursuing Byron Leftwich, to the offense putting together a steady and efficient scoring drive capped by superstar Calvin Johnson’s TD, to the special teams filling gaps in coverage and squashing returns, the Lions first teams looked, at the very least, formidable.

Despite only about 15 minutes of evaluation, Ndamukong Suh was the explosive, instinctive, and block guzzling monster he was advertised to be, while Kyle Vanden Bosch’s motor looked like it had been fitted with a new hemi. Even Cliff Avril looked like an NFL player. And the new help on offense looked determined.

Vanilla

I’m not too big of a slappy. I know preseason offenses are very basic, and run and pass blocking schemes are very vanilla, as teams aren’t going to show their hands before the flop is even dealt. But for as little or as much as the preseason is worth, the Lions defense was about as good as you could have hoped.

I don’t buy the theory from football elitists that defensive lines don’t instantly change secondaries. They do. Don’t tell me pressure generated from the front four alone, along with run stuffing ability, doesn’t change the landscape of a defense because I don’t buy it. The main contention is that teams can just go into max protect and pick you apart. Max protect, though, almost by its very definition, is a big help for a secondary. It’s extra help for the offensive line, and less passing options down field. So, uh, yeah, I’ll take max protect as a defense all day long.

I’m subscribing to the belief that the Lions will score a lot of points, and will rely on an average defense to compete. I saw that last night.

But..

The problem is depth. They simply do not have the help other teams have should they suffer injuries. The loss of Jordan Dizon is a big one. Lineback is already a thin position for Detroit, and should they lose a starter, things could get dicey. The departure of Ernie Sims and Larry Foote left a very small margin for error.

And the linebacker position is just a microcosm for the rest of the team. Watching the second and third teams, with the exception of perhaps the defensive line, was a nightmare. Amari Spievey was absolutely burned by Antonio Brown for a long TD, the secondary looked like they were playing two hand touch and the linebackers were unimpressive.

Looking at the offense, yikes. Dennis Northcutt, please blink if you are alive, man.

No longer..

No longer is this team devoid of talent. That talent, though, is very thin. They will need a lot of help from the Football Gods of Health.

I’m on record for 10 wins this year, but, admittedly, the 8 months or so ago that I wrote that article, I completely neglected to include their schedule in my prognostication. That said, they can compete with most teams this year, should they stay healthy. But in the NFL, the line “should they stay healthy” is usually a pipe dream.

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