Lions News NFL: Detroit Lions left tackle Taylor Decker expected to miss 4-6 weeks in the 2017 NFL Regular Season.



Detroit Lions 2017 Season Preview




Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Posted on 7/31/2017.


Detroit Lions Free Agency Recap


Detroit traded for left tackle Greg Robinson after Taylor Decker got injured. They also signed Ricky Wagner to replace Riley Reiff at right tackle and scooped up T.J. Lang from the Green Bay Packers. Detroit mainly focused on their offensive line in the 2017 NFL Free Agency Period.



Detroit Lions Draft Recap


The Lions drafted middle linebacker Jarrad Davis in the first round. Tahir Whitehead their middle linebacker last year will move to right outside linebacker. Teez Tabor is listed as a dime cornerback on Detroit's depth chart despite being a second round pick. Kenny Golladay is pushing for a slot receiver job despite being a third round pick.




Detroit Lions Quarterback Summary: Matthew Stafford is Detroit's starting quarterback. Jake Rudock their 2016 sixth round pick out of Michigan is the backup with Brad Kaaya their 2017 sixth round pick out of Miami FL. These quarterbacks have three coaches that know how to develop quarterbacks in head coach Jim Caldwell Jr., offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, and quarterback coach Brian Callahan all returning after the Lions made the 2017 NFL Playoffs. Matthew Stafford enters a contract year and its paramount for Detroit to keep him.


Detroit Lions Running Back Summary: Ameer Abdullah is finally expected to start at running back like we've been saying the last two seasons. At the same time, I'd expect a two-back system with Abdullah and Riddick rotating carries. David Walker has done well as Detroit's running backs coach and I expect him to continue developing.


Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Summary: Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are the Lions two best receivers. They got Jared Abbrederis from Green Bay in Free Agency, but he may not even start because 2017 third round pick Kenny Golladay is having a lot of success and he's the guy I see starting in the slot or we could even see some packages and three wide receiver sets where Golladay is on the outside with Marvin Jones in the slot. There are a lot of possibilities as far as wide receiver packages with Detroit which is one thing to like about them. Robert Prince is a good wide receivers coach when you considered how he turned this group around after Calvin Johnson retired.


Detroit Lions Tight End Summary: The Lions have Eric Ebron. With Brandon Pettigrew gone, its extremely paramount that Ebron stays healthy. Former Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden did an awesome job with Ebron in 2016.


Detroit Lions Offensive Line Summary: Taylor Decker did well at left tackle, but he's injured for the first 4-6 weeks. You also got their backup Corey Robinson on the PUP list too, so Greg Robinson the Rams' left tackle that was drafted second overall in 2014, is going to fill that spot until Decker returns since he was an absolute bust with the Rams. You also got Ricky Wagner replacing Riley Reiff at right tackle. Graham Glasgow was able to win the left guard job. You still got Travis Swanson at center plus you picked up T.J. Lang at right guard from the Packers.


Detroit has is thin at offensive tackle and center. The Lions are deep at guard though with Joe Dahl and Laken Tomlinson for depth with Tomlinson as a backup left guard and Dahl as a backup right guard. This team will have depth at offensive tackle later in the season, but are thin at that position right now. Ron Prince is the Lions assistant head coach as well as the Lions offensive line coach. If Jim Caldwell Jr. gets fired it will be Ron Prince who steps in as interim head coach for the Detroit Lions.


The Lions were 20th in points per game, 21st in total yards, 11th in passing yards, and 30th in rushing yards in 2016. Detroit got worse in every statistical category except rushing yards where they improved from 32nd in 2015 to 30th in 2016. The Lions are already depleted at the left tackle position and this offense could easily get worse with a much tougher schedule in 2017 similar to the one the Lions had at the beginning of 2015.



Detroit Lions Defensive Line Summary: Ziggy Ansah went from 14.5 sacks in 2015 when he was in the third year of a fifth year year player option. He only had 2 sacks last year and is already on the PUP list to begin 2017 entering a contract year. Detroit ignored their biggest need heading into the 2017 NFL Draft at 4-3 left end too so the idea of doubling up at defensive end is on the table with Detroit. Haloti Ngata will play 4-3 defensive tackle with A'Shawn Robinson starting next to him with Akeem Spence providing depth at 4-3 defensive tackle as a backup. Kris Kocurek did terrible last year after a strong 2015 season. He's one guy on this coaching staff who needs to put it together.


Detroit Lions Linebacker Summary: Detroit is gonna try Tahir Whitehead at 4-3 right outside linebacker after he led the team in tackles at middle linebacker hoping he fills that void DeAndre Levy left. Jarrad Davis their 2017 first round pick is expected to start right away unlike Reuben Foster who the 49ers took at 30 even though I had a higher grade on Foster. Paul Worrrilow who was a backup middle linebacker in Atlanta is expected to start at 4-3 left outside linebacker since Detroit is thin there too.


The Lions lack the linebacker depth they had last year. Jalen Reeves-Maybin got demoted from second string to third string due to his lack of size for a linebacker despite being a tackling machine at Tennessee. His speed and coverage won't translate to the NFL and that's one reason why the Lions are thin at linebacker right now, even though Jalen Reeves-Maybin could be an asset down the road.


Linebackers coach Bill Sheridan will coach the Lions linebackers. He has a lot of guys to work with even though Tulloch is gone.


Detroit Lions Defensive Backs Summary: Darius Slay will be the #1 field cornerback with Nevin Lawson complimenting him at boundary cornerback once again. D.J. Hayden will play the nickel with Teez Tabor playing dime cornerback, and Quandre Diggs being the quarter cornerback in a five cornerback set. Alex Carter will be a backup after being a second round pick at one point.


Glover Quin will start at free safety entering a contract year with former New England Patriots backup free safety Tavon Wilson being the starting strong safety. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has experience developing defensive backs and that's a good thing since the Lions don't really have a top notch defensive backs coach.


The Lions had an inconsistent middle of the pack defense in 2016 once again. Detroit went from 9th in sacks to 30th in sacks, yet they still made the NFL Playoffs as a six seed. The pass rush looks even worse this year with Ansah injured and Devin Taylor gone. Detroit was also 13th in points allowed, 18th in total yards allowed, 19th in pass defense, and 18th in run defense. The Lions are capable of putting together a top 15 run defense.


Detroit only had 26 sacks which was tied Cleveland for second fewest sacks in the NFL behind Oakland who had 25 sacks. Both of those teams will improve at getting to the quarterback next year while Detroit looks like they didn't do anything to improve their pass rush. It's a miracle that Detroit even made the playoffs last year when you consider that their turnover differential was 0 not in the +16 territory like Kansas City, but not in the minus territory either.



Detroit Lions Special Teams Summary: Detroit has Matt Prater at kicker. Sam Martin is a quality punter. Ameer Abdullah is the teams kick returner and Golden Tate is the teams punt returner. Detroit should look at finding a return specialist that doesn't see a lot of time on the field so their #1 running back and #1 receiver can just focus on offense. Joe Marciano will ultimately decide if that is necessary for the Lions though as he is Detroit's special teams coordinator this season once again.




Detroit Lions Worst Case Scenario: Detroit goes 5-11 and finishes last in the NFC North Division. This causes the Lions to clean house and blow up their roster. Matthew Stafford, Ziggy Ansah, Haloti Ngata, Tahir Whitead, and Glover Quin all enter contract years. Stafford is the one player the Lions need to keep of those five, yet they haven't re-negotiated his new deal so if they don't do that soon and the Lions finish last in the NFC North Division he may leave to play for a team like San Francisco who would honestly get more out of Stafford than Jim Caldwell is getting from Stafford.


Detroit Lions Best Case Scenario: Detroit goes 11-5 and manages to take this division from the Green Bay Packers. Of all 21 teams we previewed so far, this is the only team to have every single coach from the 2016 Season returning in 2017. That's a pretty big deal with star players in contract years along with the continuity that the Lions are building. Bob Quinn did a fantastic job in his first year as the Detroit Lions General Manager, but the big question is can he build on that in year two.


Detroit Lions 2017 NFL Schedule


Week
Date
Opponent
Time
Cable Network
Result
Week 1
September 10
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 2
September 18
AT
8:30 PM EST
ESPN
L
Week 3
September 24
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 4
October 1
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 5
October 8
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 6
October 15
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 7
Bye Week
Week 8
October 29
VS
8:30 PM EST
NBC
L
Week 9
November 6
AT
8:30 PM EST
ESPN
L
Week 10
November 12
VS
1 PM EST
CBS
W
Week 11
November 19
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 12
November 23
VS
12:30 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 13
December 3
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 14
December 10
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 15
December 16
VS
4:30 PM EST
NFL Network
W
Week 16
December 24
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 17
December 31
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
W


Detroit Lions 2017 Projected Record (5-11): Last year I said the Lions would go 6-10. They played like a 6-10 team, but still got the final wild card spot in the NFC with a 9-7 record. Prior to the Taylor Decker injury, I thought they had a legit shot to win the NFC North, but having Decker out for the first 4-6 weeks in September at left tackle along with Ziggy Ansah their best defensive player on the PUP list really hurts the Lions.


The only team they beat by double digits in 2016 was the New Orleans Saints who were depleted with injuries at cornerback last season. They won't beat the Saints this time around.


A lot of their wins were based on luck rather than skill too. Matthew Stafford had two fourth quarter comebacks against the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins which were wins based off skill. The wins against the Philadelphia Eagles where the Lions only won due to a fumble recovery and the overtime win versus the Minnesota Vikings were wins based on luck. Stafford doesn't have Taylor Decker to begin the year.


Stafford is going to face much tougher defenses in 2017. Martin Mayhew drafted well, but his negotiating skills cost a lot of players to walk after their rookie deals outside of Stafford and Calvin Johnson who retired early.


Some of the Lions players entering contract years include Matthew Stafford, Ziggy Ansah, Tahir Whitehead, Haloti Ngata, and Glover Quin their best defensive back. Outside of Stafford, I can honestly see the Lions letting all of these guys walk, and if Stafford's deal isn't re-negotiated prior to week 1, I could even see him walking too if the Lions suck this year because he's a father now and may want more money to provide for his family. Stafford has been more than loyal and patient with Detroit, and you can honestly argue at this point that he deserves better.


Bob Quinn has done a brilliant job so far as the Lions GM by putting pieces around Stafford through the Free Agency Period and the NFL Draft during the last two seasons by being extremely proactive as he enters year two as Detroit's General Manager, but he's going to really be tested after this season as he enters his third season, since a lot of their star players are going to have expiring deals in 2018 even if the Lions make the playoffs and prove me wrong.


I think the Lions may end up with a top 5 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft though. At that point Quinn would blow up the coaching staff and rebuild the team entirely which would be a huge mistake in my opinion since most of the pieces are there, but this is the kind of stuff GMs do when their teams finish poorly since it's a business. Quinn needs to remain patient and keep everything in place despite a tough schedule, but if the Lions go 5-11 and fail to return to the NFL Playoffs, I'm almost certain that Quinn will make a huge mistake by letting players walk and blowing up the roster.


Detroit would either take Harold Landry out of Boston College at defensive end or Lamar Jackson out of Louisville assuming Matthew Stafford gets fed up with the inconsistency the Lions have had over the years which may prompt him to test Free Agency since I think someone like Kyle Shanahan would get much more out of Stafford than anyone on Detroit's coaching staff if Stafford decided to sign with San Francisco.









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