Packers Enemy Needs: Detroit Lions

A look at the needs of the Detroit Lions entering the 2018 free agency period and NFL draft.

*Leading up to the free agency period and the NFL draft, we’ll take a look at the Green Bay Packers NFC North rival’s needs and where we don’t want to see them go in free agency and the draft.

The Lions are coming off of your typical Detroit Lions season as of late, a season where they went 9-7, had some impressive wins with yet some disappointing losses that left them just out of reach of the playoffs at the end of the season.  Their 2017 campaign was the straw that finally broke the back of Jim Caldwell after the Lions fired the head coach after the season.  2017 was also a season in which star quarterback Matt Stafford looked like a world beater one week only to turn around and look like the second coming of Joey Harrington the next.

But looking ahead to 2018, Lions fans and media alike are beaming with excitement over the new head coach and some of the talent that the team will be retaining heading into the new season.  After the Super Bowl, the Lions made it official that defensive guru Matt Patricia would be taking over the head coaching duties for the team.  Whether Patricia’s success as the defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick’s Patriots teams will translate to success with the Lions remains to be seen, but it is giving their fans hope.

While the team has decided to franchise tag stud pass rusher Ziggy Ansah and bring back more talent at other positions, the team also has a lot of holes to fill if it wants to compete for the NFC North and another shot at the playoffs.  With their holes, the Lions will only hold six picks in the coming draft, making them impossible to fill just through the draft.  And while Detroit has some cap space to play with in free agency, the organization is usually a tough sell to high profile free agents.  In round one of the upcoming draft, the Lions hold the 20th overall selection in round one.

Needs

Perhaps the biggest need of the Lions moving forward is at the running back position.  Last year’s backfield proved to be a huge disappointment for the team when a lot was expected out of both Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah.  Neither could find a groove all season and that left the offense a bit one-sided.  Even though Stafford and receivers like Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay could handle it at times, a solid running game could do wonders for this offense.  But, the Lions will be potentially looking for a diamond in the rough through the draft.  Mock drafts at the 20th pick are obviously difficult to gauge, but many pundits have the Lions reaching for a running back in that spot.

The Lions offensive line, particularly in the interior, needs some upgrading as well.  Most expect their free agent center to be leaving in free agency and leaving at least one hole to fill.  Not much depth last year on their line also makes the urgency for finding stud interior linemen that much more important for the team.

Even though the Lions have now franchised Ansah and feature Darius Slay and Glover Quin in their backfield, the team still has dire needs on their defensive line, at outside linebacker and in their defensive backfield.  When the offense struggled last year, the defensive failed to pick up a win for them when they were needed and when the offense was hot on some weeks, their defense was even colder and the Lions would lose in shootout fashion.  I have a feeling that new head coach Matt Patricia will be in Bob Quinn’s ear to get more defensive help on the field for the coming season.

Free Agents

The Lions have a large number of players that are about the hit the unrestricted free agent market in a week.  While there are not a lot of high profile names, the big names among Lions fans are outside linebacker Tahir Whitehead, left tackle Greg Robinson and defensive backs D.J. Hayden and Nevin Lawson.  (Don Barclay joins that list as well!)  The team’s main priority for internal free agents, Ziggy Ansah, was handled via the franchise tag as mentioned earlier.

Any rumors surrounding potential Lions ventures into free agency involve second and third tier players and no one from the high profile realm.  Some names that have been linked for potential interest are Patriots running back Dion Lewis, Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson, Saints edge rusher Alex Okafor and Panthers guard Andrew Norwell. 

Looking Ahead

With their newfound proficiency of handing it to the Packers over the last few years, the Lions still have a long way to go to become a complete team.  They will be the team that one year experts will predict to go 12-4 and win the North, only to turn around and go 7-9 while falling on their faces.  Then, the following year, pundits will predict them to go 6-10 and somehow Stafford and the passing attack will lead them to 11 wins and a Wild Card berth.  But, those are the pesky Lions we have grown to love.  So, here’s to the Lions flopping their whopping six draft picks and blowing every possible opportunity in free agency coming shortly.  The fans of Detroit (and Green Bay) will expect nothing less!

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Ryan Brunner is an avid Packers fan hailing from Chippewa Falls, WI.  He is a firm believer that punters are NFL players too!  Follow him on Twitter @brunwardo

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Comments (9)

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stockholder's picture

March 07, 2018 at 06:52 am

The lions will goLB/ DT. Suh left and the defense was never the same. This would be your spot for Langley,Evans, Payne and phillps.

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The TKstinator's picture

March 07, 2018 at 07:31 am

In the first round, where does Detroit pick in round one?

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Savage57's picture

March 07, 2018 at 08:15 am

Slotted with the 20th pick in round one, the Lions will be making the 20th selection in first round of the 2018 NFL draft.

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The TKstinator's picture

March 07, 2018 at 04:13 pm

Oh!!!
So 20th then?
In the first round of round one for the beginning round that happens first?

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Razer's picture

March 07, 2018 at 08:05 am

I disagree that the "Lions have a long way to go to become a complete team". Add a RB and they are a playoff team. Add another decent O-lineman and a linebacker and they are a division title contender. With Stafford they have the man that can make all the throws and keep them in any game and they proved that repeatedly over the years.

Maybe the best thing the Lions did over the past years is to get a better GM and now a head coach that can get them over the hump. I see very little separation between the Lions and the Packers. We are a little stronger on offense (because of Rodgers) and they are stronger on defense.

Lions go LB, RB, OL, DL in best available order

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dobber's picture

March 07, 2018 at 11:01 am

The track record of the Hoodie's disciples in head coaching jobs leaves a lot to be desired...

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Razer's picture

March 07, 2018 at 01:07 pm

Looking back on the Packers versus the Lions, there have not been many blowouts other than the Lions over us. Recent history shows us fairly even and I don't see the separation that would suggest the Packers kicking around another good average team.

We'll see what moves each team makes over the next year or two to gain ground. Both teams have holes that plague ultimate success. Until someone makes enough moves to contend for the Super Bowl, we will all slug it out with the Vikings for the NFC North crown.

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dobber's picture

March 07, 2018 at 09:17 am

As someone who watches the Lions a lot (pity me, please) I'll say this: they ride the edge of the knife more than just about any team in the NFL the last couple years. They made the playoffs a year ago, but could have just as readily been a 6-10 team. This year: 9-7, but could have easily been 5-11 (especially if they had to try to handle an ARod-led Packers team).

Their most significant change is kicking likable, but bland Jim Caldwell to the curb and bringing in Matt Patricia. Caldwell brought stability to the team after they dumped an overmatched Jim Schwartz, but he brought no fire or inventiveness. He rode the backs of a very with-it Jim Bob Cooter (could be a candidate for more HC jobs this off-season) and Matt Stafford, who still has too many stretches of erratic and ineffective play on a weekly basis for an "elite" QB.

Personnel-wise, their offense needs help on the OL and at RB. They signed Lang and Wagner to big contracts (oops) last off-season, but are likely to let their C go and don't know if their LT (Taylor Decker) is up to the task of being a true bookend. Until they fix the OL, I don't think a RB makes much difference for them. Unless Kenny Golladay steps up at WR, they lack a high-end pass-catcher, but have a series of #2 types. They're shopping Eric Ebron, which means they could be in the market for a TE.

Defensively they're one of the worst pass-rushing teams in the league over the last 3+ seasons, even with Ziggy Ansah who runs hot (against poor teams) and cold (against good teams). They really had no choice (think Packers with Nick Perry) but to franchise Ansah because they have nothing else...that leaves their secondary exposed to get picked apart by even average QBs (sound familiar?).

Nobody knows what Haloti Ngata will have left in the tank when he comes back, but it seems he's been hurt more than he's been healthy in his time with the Lions. When he's on the field, he and A'Shawn Robinson are stout against the run and protect a rising star in Jarrod Davis at MLB. Past that, they have Slay and Quin...that's about it for that defense. In many ways, they're a more organized version of the Packers D.

The Lions will be doing everyone a favor if they draft a RB early. They've already shown that they can't run-block to save their lives, so the ceiling for a rookie runner isn't going to be much higher than what they've shown in recent years. They really need to be looking at ways to generate pass rush and protect Stafford. A decent OL will make even a journeyman RB a threat with Stafford chucking the ball as much as he does. Those two things are the the key to their being a potential playoff team in 2018. I'm not worried about them making a leap in the short term because Quinn hasn't made great decisions in free agency and draft picks are often slow to develop.

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4thand10's picture

March 07, 2018 at 07:10 pm

From what I could tell.... The Lions desperately need a good RB. They have a pass catching scat back...but no bruiser that changes other teams defenses. But as usual, I hope they reach for someone and miss and go broke scrambling in FA.

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