Last summer, we ran a three-part “Know Your Enemy” series in which we broke down the respective offseasons of the other three NFC North teams.
That turned out well enough, so we’ve decided to do it again. This time, though, we’re going about it differently. Instead of spreading the posts out over a few weeks, we’re going to run them all within a couple days of each other. This way, you can get a comprehensive look a little bit quicker. By the time we’re done, we hope we’ll have given you a good look at everything you need to know about what these teams did.
After all, one cannot fully hate their opponent until they know everything about them.
As always, enjoy.
Where they were heading into the offseason: The 2009 season went a little better for the Motor City Kitties (copyright Dan Cole), as the Lions won two games, two more than they did in 2008. That’s nice, but when you finish 2-14, you still have major work to do across the board, especially when you consider the Lions were last in points allowed (494) and yards per game allowed (392.1), 27th in points scored (262) and 26th in yards per game (299).
What happened in free agency: Detroit made a big splash in free agency, signing defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and wide receiver Nate Burleson. The Lions continued to target the d-line by acquiring defensive tackle Corey Williams (remember him?) via a trade with the Cleveland Browns. Corner was also addressed as the team signed Jonathan Wade and acquired Chris Houston from Atlanta. Offensively, Detroit picked up guard Rob Sims (Seattle) and tight end Tony Scheffler (Denver) in separate trades.
What happened in the draft: The Lions continued their d-line overhaul by drafting DT Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick. A trade with Minnesota (huh?) allowed Detroit to jump back into the bottom part of round one, where it selected RB Jahvid Best. Other interesting picks included CB Amari Spivey and LT Jason Fox.
Where the Lions are now: Lions fans – and no, I’m not kidding – should be excited about where their team is headed. GM Martin Mayhew appears to have an actual plan in place for how he wants to build this team (as opposed to Matt Millen, who appeared to use a dartboard for this type of stuff).
With a defensive-minded head coach in Jim Schwartz, Mayhew actively went about improving not only that side of the ball, but the most important part of that side of the ball: the defensive line. Vanden Bosch, Suh and Williams will all start on opening day and pair with promising young end Cliff Avril to ensure the Lions get to the quarterback much, much more often than they did last year (29th in sacks with just 26). This is a good thing indeed because, while I don’t dislike the moves Detroit made with its secondary, I’m still not sure about that group overall (though I love safety Louis Delmas). Still, that won’t matter as much if the other team’s quarterback is pressured, which he should be.
Offensively, the Lions should be better, as well. The Sims move helps the o-line, though that group is still a fairly big question mark. If the line holds up, though, it’s there for quarterback Matthew Stafford to make a nice leap in year two. Scheffler teams up with Brandon Pettigrew to give Stafford two safety valves at tight end. While the team overpayed greatly for Burleson ($25 million for five years), he’ll serve as a solid No. 2 option behind Calvin Johnson. Best will play the dual-purpose gamebreaker role if he can avoid concussions, a major problem for him in college. And I still think Kevin Smith could turn into a nice back. Fox will be the left tackle of the future, as well.
I’m not suggesting a playoff push is in the cards for the Lions (baby steps, Detroit fans, baby steps). I am, however, saying you should not be surprised if the Lions reach six-or-seven win territory this season, pulling off a couple of upsets along the way. A bright future at Ford Field? Maybe – just maybe.
Offseason grade: B
We’ll be back later today with a look at Da Bears.