Roster Weak Spots, As Well As The Offensive And Defensive Leaders Through Week Fourteen.
Question One: Where Do You Think The Lions Should Target This Off-Season To Address This Teams Weak Spots?
I usually like to wait until the off-season to start breaking down tape before coming up answering this question myself. But I do see a couple glaring weaknesses that likely will stay weakness in 2018, regardless of performance in the three remaining games.
The Lions really need to find a replacement for Tahir Whitehead this off-season. The Lions outside linebacker has struggled more than nearly any other starter on the team. While he has moments where he flashes his strength against the run, his overall performance has been bad the past two seasons. He has consistently been a liability in zone coverage, often getting targeted by opposing offenses and exploited.
Many of these plays were given up on 3rd down and long. Which is an area where Detroit has really struggled this season. He is slow to diagnose against the run and is consistently taken out of plays where a lineman gets to the second level.
The Lions also need at least one, but preferably two defensive ends. With his age and injuries, Ziggy Ansah is no guarantee to stay and Kerry Hyder is coming off an ACL tear. Anthony Zettel flashes, but loses edge contain far too often to be trusted with a starting role. While he is rarely the main issue, Cornelius Washington has lacked any presence of pass rush. Filling these three spots would go a long way for Detroit’s defense in 2018.
Question Two: Who Is The Lions Best Player On Offense This Season, To This Point?
This is tough one for me, but I am going to have to say Matthew Stafford as the offensive leader. Granted, his interception totals have been creeping upwards lately, I think he deserves credit for taking major strides as a passer this season. In spite of some of the worst pass protection in the NFL, Stafford is still 2nd in the NFL in passing yards, has a 65% completion, and 23 touchdowns.
I think the lack of protection is a big part of the brief interception issues as well. The hits and abuse he has taken this year, has left many different parts of his body injured throughout the season. While they all have been minor enough Stafford could still play, that wear and tear adds up. In spite of that, he has been fitting the balls into very tight windows, making great reads, and has really worked on his touch passing as well. These improvements have really elevated his game. If the Lions had even average protection, Stafford would be in the conversation of the top quarterbacks of the 2017 season.
Question Three: Who Has Been The Lions Best Player On Defense This Season?
Close on this one. I will give Glover Quin honorable mention here just because of how well he has performed this season. But the leading defender this season has been cornerback Darius Slay. He has been shadowing the opponents best receivers week in and week out. He has shadowed some of the best in the NFL including Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, and Adam Thielen.
Slay is the current leader in the NFL for interceptions at the cornerback position. Slay always seems to come up with a pick or fumble recovery right when the Lions need it most this season. What makes this season even more impressive is just how poor the Lions pass rush and underneath coverage has been. Quarterbacks have had more time to throw and is getting not great help in coverage from his teammates either. But, Slay still has continued to shine in the face of the adversity. He has had a top-3 performance at his position so far this year. Once the Lions get some pass rush help and better coverage, Slay could be in for an even better 2018 season.