The Detroit Lions had a rough start to the 2015 season, starting out 1-7 before the bye week. The offense was inconsistent or even nonexistent in some games. A week before the bye, Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi was fired for the consistently poor performance by the offense. Jim Bob Cooter replaced him for the rest of the season. During the bye week, heads rolled out of Detroit as Martha’s hammer came down. President Tom Lewand and General Manager Martin Mayhew were fired. Sheldon White took over as interim GM before Martha hired Bob Quinn from New England.
After the changes to the offense, Detroit improve on the second half of the season ending 6-2, with the record ending 7-9. Detroit seemed to have improved with Cooter as the offensive coordinator, but some of the same problems were still there. According to ProFootballFocus Detroit had the 24th ranked offensive line, ranked 21st in pass blocking, 26th in run blocking and 9th in penalties. Injuries and other things added up to just a dud season for Detroit.
Free agency is just around the corner and the draft is about two months away. Detroit has some needs at spots, so lets look at the biggest needs the Lions need to address this off-season.
As stated earlier, Detroit was ranked the number 24 offensive line in the league. Stafford was getting lit up and almost missed some time due to all the beatings he took. Many times Stafford was lit up before the play could even develop. According to NFL.com the rushing attack was ranked dead last in the league with 1,335 yards. The offensive line could not create any holes for the backs to make a play. Finding some blockers that can give Stafford time and create holes will change this offense greatly.
Another need for the Lions is on the defensive line. Haloti Ngata announced he would return to the NFL, and though reports are saying his return to Detroit is likely, it won’t be enough for the Lions. Jason Jones is also a free agent and Detroit hasn’t said a word as to whether he is coming back as well following the off-season. Detroit doesn’t have that many great players on the defensive tackle position, with Tyrunn Walker, Gabe Wright, Khyri Thornton, Caraun Reid and Kerry Hyder being the only defensive tackles on the roster. Luckily for them the draft is deep with defensive tackles and free agency might be able to fill that void as well. Defensive end has Devin Taylor possibly taking over for Jason Jones, Detroit will still need some backups with Jones and Tapp possibly leaving.
We all know what might happen before free agency. A legendary wide receiver like Calvin Johnson will be impossible to replace, but Detroit still needs to look for someone who can contribute and maybe be that number one/two wide receiver that Detroit desperately needs. Behind Golden Tate is TJ Jones, Austin Willis, Corey Fuller, Corey Washington and Ryan Spadola. The receiving corps is needed of an upgrade with not just one, but two, maybe even three receivers to sign this off-season. Lance Moore said he would like to come back to Detroit, and he did a fine job when healthy at the number three spot. Bringing him back would make Detroit only need one to two more receivers. The draft is also deep in wide receiver and there are some good free agents that are set to hit the market. If Detroit wants to keep the offense alive, they are going to have to find some help for Golden Tate.
James Ihedigbo and Isa Abdul-Quddus are both free agents and Ihedigbo has already been informed he will not be back with the team in 2016. IAQ did well in 2015 and he could return to take the starting job. Detroit only has Glover Quinn, Isaiah Johnson, and Don Carey on the roster right now for safety, so the position is in dire need of somebody who can start besides Quinn. According to NFL.com Detroit are interested in safety George Iloka and are willing to spend top dollar for him. Besides that, Detroit would need to get a backup if Iloka lands in Detroit, so the draft would be a good spot for that. Bringing back IAQ is still a good possibility, but Detroit might not be willing to pay him for just a good half season and he might not want to be the backup again after taking over the starting job halfway through last season.
Matt Stafford took a pounding last season and luckily for Detroit, Dan Orlovsky was on the team and came in when Stafford was hurt or having a bad game. Now, there is nobody behind Stafford. You always need a backup quarterback for a worse case scenario. Detroit could look at free agency this off-season for a veteran to back Stafford up, but the NFL draft is a great place to find a young quarterback to develop and make up a solid backup. You want to be comfortable with your backup and that he can go in the game if necessary, and do a good job. You want the most important position to have the best possible backups in order to lead your team and give them a good shot to win.