By: Eric Thomas
The Lions opened training camp with actual expectations this year. For Lions fans, this is a bit like being dropped on some distant alien planet. Usually training camp for Lions fans is like dating on the Internet. You comb through pictures and information, getting your hopes up, only to be let down when you see the disappointment in front of you, wide fore headed and scale skinned.
A ten win season last year made this year different. Announcing your loyalty to the team no longer produces guffaws and knee slaps, followed by a tear wiping questions about sadism. The team has a core of young talent that would be the envy of most organizations. The Lions aren’t going to sneak up on people. Going into Ford Field will be approached with some trepidation, and not only because many of the Lions have criminal records now.
There are many questions as the Lions open training camp. We have no easy answers and they won’t be answered until the season starts. Cuz remember the year that that one team one every game of the preseason and then went on … to…
Running Back: Yeah, this is the bigger question to me than the defensive backfield. The cupboard isn’t bare but it’s filled with glued together ceramic. Jahvid Best is a concussion away from a life of shuffleboard and car dealer appearances. It’s unfortunate, the realities of emerging medical science, but this is where we are. But it’s not like the concussions were the only injuries that he had in the past. Mikel Leshoure managed to be moved into the question column by both his mending Achilles and dumb choices. At least Kevin Smith has yards of heart. Let’s just hope his body is as willing as his spirit.
Defensive Line: The strength of the Lions defense two years ago needs to produce at a high level for the team to have a prayer of success this year. Meaning they need to produce at a level that the combined salaries would indicated they are capable of. Cliff Avril needs to show why he is worth the money he is asking for. He has done well in his two previous ‘prove yourself’ years. He unfortunately has to do it again. Suh has to recover from his sophomore slump (hey, Stafford and CJ both had rotten second years), and Nick Fairley has to prove he wasn’t a total bust.
Defensive Backfield: The unit has been decimated by a lack of talent and now it is an awful mess due to lack of maturity. Aaron Berry was poised for his breakout season, now he can only hope to break out of prison (writer pauses, makes notes for his next prospective movie script). The Lions cornerback situation is awful, at the start of training camp it’s somehow worse than it was last year, and there is no hope for reprieve. The Lions rolled snake eyes on the DB free agent sweepstakes and convinced themselves Aaron Berry was going to be the surprise this year. They were right, in a way.
Discipline: This is the biggest question, and the knot in the stomach of all true Lions fans. I love what Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz have done here. They have both been sensational. Granted, the previous administration was just a man with a moustache that kept kicking me in the throat, but I really think they have done an excellent job. This is the best Lions team in twenty years and Lions fans are hovering in a happy state of bliss. But this all could collapse into the Cincinnati Bengals unless they manage to get a hold of the malfeasance. Packers coach Mike McCarthy suggested that the Lions’ discipline issues started at the top and were dyed into the wood their house was built with. Let’s hope he’s wrong. Better yet, could they prove him wrong?