By: Eric Thomas
The Lions off-season workouts are coming to a close, and football finally takes its long summer nap. The NFL off-season is over, for the Lions more than any other team. They have no wiggle room to sign any other free agents; they don’t even have enough money under the salary cap to sign Eric Ebron, the first round pick from May’s draft.
On paper, maybe some people LOVE this off-season. Many fans are panting over the possibility of a high octane offense. They swooned over the signing of Golden Tate, and collapsed on the fainting couch when the Lions picked a tight end with the tenth overall pick.
The rest of us saw this off-season as tragically misguided, as the Lions acquired talent from places where they really didn’t need extra help, and gave Matt Stafford more weapons that he could ever truly need. You can only throw one ball at a time, but the Lions apparently disagree, stacking the team with receiver after receiver and over-correcting last years’ problem while they’ve left the defensive secondary to chance.
Now that the Lions’ off-season is largely over, here’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly:
The Good: It seems like the players are responding well to Jim Caldwell and his staff. It’s hard to penetrate a locker room, and much of this is conjecture, but reports reveal the players seem somewhat relieved that the team is under different management. Jim Schwartz was prone to anger and outbursts, Caldwell is as calm as a morning lake. The new Lions coach is completely different than the last and so far the players seem to appreciate it. Does this mean that the players resented Schwartz late in his tenure with the Lions? We won’t speculate here, but the divisions in the locker room and the attitude on the field was certainly a problem in the last two seasons, and maybe that acrimony was a reflection of Schwartz himself. Time will tell, but if Caldwell and his staff can make the Lions’ talent play to their potential, they’ll take this team far indeed.
The Bad: USA today football writer Nate Davis has predicted that the Lions will win four games in 2014, because of the current state of the defense. Many fans and media members recoiled at such a prediction, but it’s hard to argue against them. The Lions sunk all their valuable resources (the bulk of the free agent money, first round draft pick) to fix one problem: to give Matt Stafford more weapons. It’s not clear that Matt Stafford needed this much help when maybe a single receiver would have sufficed. With Fauria entering his second season, Reggie Bush is gaining an offensive coordinator whom he recognized from his time with the Saints and Brandon Pettigrew freshly re-signed, that should have been enough for the Lions offense to take the next step. Instead, they spent all their time on the offense, allowing the defense and defensive secondary to go another year more or less ignored. Maybe I’ll be wrong and James Ihedigbo will be a monster in the secondary, Darius Slay will suddenly be a worthy starter and Chris Houston will return to 2012 form, but I doubt it.
The Ugly: Ndamukong Suh, and this problem is twofold. He was late to off season workouts, which is not that big of a deal normally, but with the drama surrounding his contract, it didn’t look good. Many of his teammates and coaches were forced to answer questions about last year’s defensive captain. That’s bad, and it doesn’t exactly earn the love of your teammates. There’s also the drama surrounding the contract. He managed to make headlines as soon as he spoke about it, creating a national story when he told local reporters that he didn’t have to come to the Lions when they drafted him #2 overall. He continues to make everything all about Ndamukong. When he dragged his feet on hiring an agent to negotiate his contract and wasted time hiring Jay-Z as his “entertainment” representative, he generally created bad vibes inside and outside the team. He’s set up a season where he becomes the NFL equivalent of Dwight Howard, spending all next year under a cloud of speculation concerning his motives and intentions. It’s going to be a long year.