The Detroit Lions have settled a lot of things this offseason in regards to personnel and new scheme’s offensively and defensively and an overhaul to the coaching staff. Some things will remain the same as the stars will still be mainstays Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell will carry the running load and the Lions will rely on a strong offensive line to move the ball. Other things are left up in the air.
How the Lions new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi uses first round pick Eric Ebron in conjunction with incumbent starting tight end Brandon Pettigrew will be interesting. It basically means that last years break out goal line weapon Joseph Fauria will be relegated to special teams and the occasional rest for Ebron and Pettigrew which is disappointing after watching him develop last year. He also has free agent signee Golden Tate at his disposal, and Tate will start, though it’s tough to say whether that will be in the slot or on the outside. In reality, the Lions are overstocked at players who fit in the slot position with Tate, Ebron, injury prone Ryan Broyles and draftee T.J. Jones all suited to fill the role.
The Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin also has some new players to fit into his scheme in first year. The Lions acquired James Ihedigbo at the safety position and he is expected to start alongside Glover Quin. The cornerback position is far less settled though. The Lions are returning most of last years beleaguered unit with Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis, Chris Houston, Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green all returning. They also drafted Nevin Lawson in the fourth round this year. Whether or not they are able to be more productive than they were last year will be very important than their success in 2014.
The Lions did upgrade the kicker slot by drafting Nate Freese to replace inconsistent David Akers. Freese is the first kicker that the Lions have drafted since potential hall of famer Jason Hanson. Hanson has already publicly endorsed the move as he feels Freese will perform well as a rookie for the Lions.
That just touches on what the Lions have in store for them. Suh’s contract needs to be extended and his salary cap number lowered. Nick Fairley needs to show up in better shape and be productive, but even then he’ll create controversy because the Lions already passed up his fifth year option. If Fairley is productive, he’ll be leaving the Lions and signing a large free agent contract elsewhere, if he isn’t, the Lions will have a big hole in the middle of their defensive line.
All this and a new head coach with Jim Caldwell makes the next week of OTA’s far more interesting than the last few years and should create dynamic storylines throughout the Lions season. There will be no shortage of intrigue in Detroit in 2014, for better or worse and it starts now.