By Chris Morgan
After one of the more improbable wins in NFL history, the Detroit Lions are on a bye this week. It comes at a nice time for people who want to assess their season so far, as they have played exactly half of their games. With a 5-3 record, and an easy schedule the rest of the way, things certainly bode well for Detroit. The playoffs are definitely a real possibility. So far this year, some players have come up big, while others have disappointed a bit. Here is a further look into the Lions performance thus far.
To be honest, you would be hard pressed to point out a Lions player that has been a real, clear disappointment. Sure, Darius Slay has not been all that good, and hasn’t been reliable as a cornerback, but that is often the case for rookies in the secondary. Mikel Leshoure, another former second round pick, has been largely inactive. Nick Fairley could perhaps be playing a bit better, but he hasn’t been bad. However, in terms of veteran players who have not dealt with injuries, there aren’t a lot of negatives for this team. Then again, that also means it is unlikely somebody is going to suddenly crank up their performance to another level. Maybe this is the team that the Lions are going to be going forward. Not that would be bad if that were the case. This is a 5-3 team, after all.
Detroit will get a key player back from injury eventually, at least, in wide receiver Nate Burleson. Of course, with Ryan Broyles now lost for the year with an Achilles tendon injury, that may be a bit of a wash. Not entirely, though, as Burleson is the better player of the two. Additionally, it would be nice for Detroit if their offensive line, namely their tackles, could remain healthy going forward.
Megatron and Friends
OK, now for the positive stuff. For starters, Calvin Johnson needs to be mentioned. Sure, he was expected to be great, but his level of play should still be praised. Even though he missed a game, and was basically a decoy for another, he still has 47 receptions for 821 yards and seven touchdowns. That is a tremendous pace, although he likely won’t have over 300 yards receiving in another game. Matthew Stafford is also having a very good year. He’s completing 62.4% of his passes for 2,617 yards, 16 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Not to mention his two rushing touchdowns, including the big one that won the Dallas game last week.
However, perhaps it is the presence of Reggie Bush that has been most beneficial to this offense. Bush has provided the big play ability that Jahvid Best was able to do before his unfortunate concussion issues. Like Megatron, Bush has missed some action, but he has been impressive while healthy, in terms of his numbers and his highlight reel. Bush is averaging 4.4 yards per carry with two rushing scores. He also has been big in the passing game, providing a nice safety outlet for Stafford. He has 31 receptions, second on the team, for 335 yards and two scores. His backup Joique Bell has been quite solid as well, as the undrafted free agent from Wayne State has rendered Leshoure obsolete. Like Bush, he contributes through the air and on the ground, and he’s tallied four touchdowns of his own.
Of course, while the offense has been dynamic, the defense should get a bit of attention as well. Rookie Ziggy Ansah is raw, sure, but he has shown that he has the ability to rush the passer at this level already, with three sacks to his name. He will only get better. So far, DeAndre Levy has probably been the best player on this defense. In addition to being tied for the team lead in tackles with 47, the linebacker is also tied for the team lead with seven passes defensed, and he has a team-leading four picks, one of which he turned into a touchdown. Add in three tackles for loss, and Levy has clearly been a force.
It has been a nice season for the Lions so far. Can they continue it in the second half and make a return to the postseason? If these key players that are having big seasons can continue their high level of play, it is a real possibility.
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Chris Morgan has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports “expert.” His work can be found on Examiner.com. .