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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Detroit Lions 2016 first-quarter position grades

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Logan Lamorandier
Born and raised just outside of Kalamazoo as a die-hard Detroit sports fan. Attended Western Michigan University and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona not too long after graduation. Currently a medical sales rep and unapologetic Lions addict.


Outside of the Bear’s game, the Lions offense has continued the success found last year under Jim Bob Cooter‘s guidance. They are still ranked the 9th overall offense based on yards per game. Despite the offensive achievement as a whole, the Lions run game still is in the bottom third of the league.


One of the obvious bright spots on the team has been the quarterback play. Matthew Stafford has looked sharp (at least in the first 3 weeks) and in complete command of the offense. Unfortunately, the team around him does not provide much assistance when he can’t locate his A-game. The Bears schemed their entire defense to stop Stafford and the pass, yet the Lions still couldn’t muster up a semblance of a run game.

The much-maligned, yet objective, grading scale of Pro Football Focus ranks Stafford as the fourth overall quarterback going into week 5. To sum up in a moment, just the general  lack of support our QB has received, another alarming stat from PFF: “Matthew Stafford has lost a league-high 143 passing yards this season due to drops (not even factoring in potential yards after the catch).”

Stafford maybe hasn’t been elite, but you can’t reasonably ask much more of him.


Running Backs:

The Lions started off the season on such a high note. Ameer Abdullah was making defenders look silly and Theo Riddick was up to his old tricks. Once Abdullah was placed on IR with a foot injury, the run game went down hill. It’s now almost a foregone conclusion that Riddick is nothing more than an elite third-down specialist. His shiftiness actually gets him in trouble in defender-dense areas.

Rookie seventh-round pick Dwayne Washington has been efficient when healthy in his spot duty, but is still not as capable finding and accelerating through the small creases like Abdullah. With the Lions struggling to open lanes up front, they currently don’t have a running back with the ability to pick up yards when nothing is there. One of the best attributes of Abdullah that is sorely missed is his aptitude for finding a way to gain yards with minimal blocking help. That being said, it’s not easy to be a running back in the NFL when the O-line doesn’t give you much assistance.


Wide Receivers:

Talk about a difficult group to grade. What once was supposed to be a 1A and 1B combination at receiver, it now looks more like undisputed No. 1 and distant No. 3. The disparity between the early goings of free-agent acquisition Marvin Jones and third-year Lion Golden Tate have been stark. Jones is second in the league in yardage (482) and Tate has yet to gain 100-yards on the year–good enough for fifth on the team. Tate, by far, has been the biggest disappointment on the entire roster. Meanwhile, the ageless wonder Anquan Boldin has fulfilled the role he was brought in to fill.

The most noticeable concern outside of Tate’s severe production drop-off has been the abundance of drops. The three aforementioned wideouts have been renowned for their sticky hands, yet all have had the case of the dropsies this year. Jones has shown a knack for winning jump balls against single coverage but has also left yards on the field with unsuccessful body catches. Their reliable hands in traffic are a must-have considering their collective struggles to create sufficient separation from opposing defensive backs.


Tight Ends:

At the beginning of the season, if I told you Eric Ebron had the most dependable hands on the team through the first four weeks, you would have laughed in my face. Ebron is the second leading receiver on the entire team and has made some difficult catches with no egregious drops. The mental mistakes have plagued Ebron though. He has tallied a team-high four penalties already and has negated two touchdown plays (a couple calls were very questionable). He also drew a lot of flack for completely giving up on a block after a blown assignment when the play was far from over.

Outside of Ebron’s production in the passing game, the tight end unit has been very ineffective. Cole Wick and Khari Lee have been weak run blockers at best with Ebron perhaps being the worst of them all. The return of blocking specialist Brandon Pettigrew off of the PUP will be a welcomed addition.


Offensive Line:

GM Bob Quinn spent three draft picks last April in hopes of solidifying a lousy offensive line. Despite no sweeping changes, the line does seem to be somewhat improved. LT Taylor Decker is the only new starter from a year ago. Whether it be from maturation, scheme, or just lack of talent faced, there hasn’t been any blatant missed assignments or mishaps. For a rookie left tackle playing alongside the weakest link of the line, Decker has held his own. This week’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles will be a great test for the youngster.

The Lions still haven’t been great protecting Stafford, but they have been better pass blocking than run blocking. Maybe the precipitous decline in rushing yards recently can be accredited to the callow backfield, but there have not been many open running lanes either. It appeared that the line might actually have a formidable ground game until Abdullah went down. No matter the case, the big uglies up front have gotten pushed around too much. The C grade may be overly generous for this group, but with the original expectations so low, they have played better than anticipated which in turn bumped them up a few points.


Up Next: Defense

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