Tavon Wilson‘s Injury, Post-Thanksgiving Playoff Outlook, And Freeney’s Debut.
Question One: How Does Losing Tavon Wilson Impact The Lions Defense?
The Lions hold strong to the belief of the “next man up” philosophy since Jim Caldwell has taken over has head coach. Tavon Wilson was having a decent year in coverage so far, but has been sidelined the rest of the season by a shoulder injury that unfortunately will require surgery. The next man up at the strong safety position for the Lions is second-year pro Miles Killebrew.
Miles was drafted largely because of his physical presence and has played well in coverage in three safety sets so far this year. But it has only been brief windows in which he has played the more traditional safety role and has had some ups and downs doing so. In deeper coverage, he has done a good job with positioning and reading route combinations, but has struggled to make plays on contested balls consistently enough and could be a problem if he is asked to do so right now.
However, the Lions remaining opponents do not possess offenses with the same deep play ability as any of their previous matchups. If there were a time in 2017 Killebrew to be thrown into the fray, it is now. It is worth noting the Lions do still have Don Carey and Charles Washington on the roster as backup safeties as well as Teez Tabor who has come in on big dime packages. If they feel any of them could better cover the deep ball, it opens the defense back up to run three safety sets with Killebrew in the “money backer” role again.
Question Two: After The Thanksgiving Loss To Minnesota, How Tough Will The Road To The Playoffs Be?
It definitely makes dreams of the Lions first divisional championship begin to fade away from 2017. But there is certainly still room for optimism for Detroit to make the playoffs. The NFC is playing really well this year as a conference, which makes it tougher, but the remaining schedule looks quite promising for their playoff hopes.
The Lions play the Ravens, Buccaneers, Bears, Bengals, and Packers to finish out the year, with both divisional games coming at home. The Lions are currently two games back from the Saints and Panthers at 8-3 and one game from the Falcons and Panthers at 7-4. With losses to the Falcons, Saints, and Panthers this year, they have to beat these teams outright for a spot.
Fortunately, the Saints and Panthers still have to face each other twice, while the Panthers and Saints both have each other one more time and the Vikings left on the schedule. The Seahawks too have quite the challenge too with the Eagles, Jaguars, Rams, and Cowboys the next four weeks.
Detroit may have the worst record of the four teams fighting for the two wild card spots, but they certainly have the easiest schedule remaining and do not face another playoff fighting team in their final five weeks.
Question Three: How Well Do You Think Dwight Freeney Will Look In His Debut As A Lion On Monday?
One of the best things about Freeney his entire career has been his consistency at the defensive end position. While he certainly has had his fair share of injuries throughout his career, when he has been on the field, he has been productive. At the ripe age of the 37, he is still producing with consistency and arguably the greatest spin rush move all time.
The Seahawks have sighted injuries to their linebackers as to why the defensive end was let go, not because he was not playing well. In his four games in Seattle this season, he has three sacks. While I do not expect him to go on a sack streak here in Detroit, it is quite likely he will make several impactful plays on the quarterback in the remaining games this season. The Lions need pass rushing production badly and Dwight was the best available player on the market.
Against the Ravens on Monday, I think Freeney will play well with the playtime he is given. Likely playing 10-15 snaps and should create some much needed pass rush in Detroit, even if it is only limited help.