Photo by: Mike Morbeck
With training camp officially underway for the Detroit Lions, it’s a good time to take a look at the 2016-17 version of the team.
If there is one thing to say about Lions fans, it’s that they are a loyal bunch. Along with the Cleveland Browns, the Lions are the only other original NFL team to have never been to a Super Bowl game.
In fact, the team’s last playoff win was back in the 1991 playoffs. Since then they have been back to the postseason seven times with no victories to show for it.
But this is a new year and with every season there is always a renewed sense of optimism.
The Lions finished the last 8 games of the 2015 season with a 6-2 record. Quarterback Matthew Stafford had arguably his best eight game stretch of his career under the direction of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter who took over the job in midseason.
So let’s take a closer look at the 2016-17 version of the team including players they have added and those that have left.
The biggest news to most NFL fans was the surprising retirement of All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The future Hall of Famer is not a player you can replace since Megatron has size, speed and skills that are unmatched.
New General Manager Bob Quinn targeted wide receiver Marvin Jones early in the free-agent process and inked him to a five-year, $40 million contract.
Jones is expected to pair with incumbent Golden Tate as the top two receiving targets for Stafford.
Tight end Eric Ebron is entering his third season in Detroit and is also expected to see a lot more balls now that Johnson is gone. Just recently, the team also added veteran receiver Anquan Boldin who will provide veteran leadership on the field and in the clubhouse.
At running back the team expects improvement from Ameer Abdullah and they also brought in veteran Stevan Ridley who played most recently for the New York Jets.
Defensively, the Lions are hoping for the return of a healthy Deandre Levy at linebacker to join studs Ziggy Ansah and Darius Slay They also want to get one more year out of lineman Haloti Ngata as he grooms second round pick A’Shawn Robinson as his future replacement.
The Lions went big with their first three picks in the draft bringing in offensive lineman Taylor Decker in round one, Robinson in round two and center Graham Glasgow in the third. In round four they opted for hard hitting safety Miles Killebrew.
Quinn decided to bring back Head Coach Jim Caldwell for another year with the team. The players enjoy playing for him and with Cooters success in the final 8 games they are hoping it carries over this season.
Expect free-agent acquisition Jones to make an immediate impact at wide receiver while draft pick Decker may plug right into the starting left tackle slot. I also see some of the other draft picks getting significant playing time.
Even without Johnson, Stafford is a veteran quarterback with one of the best arms in the league. The team will still score points.
If they can get some help from the defense, this could be the year that Lions fans will truly have something to cheer about. Maybe even a playoff win.