Detroit Lions 2019 Season Preview
By Alex Williams
2018 started in dismal fashion for the Detroit Lions and new head coach Matt Patricia. A 48-17 thrashing at the hands of the New York Jets is never ideal. Things didn’t improve for the first year Head Coach as he continues the recent struggles of ex-Patriot assistants sans Belichick. Kerryon Johnson had an excellent rookie campaign, but Matthew Stafford statistically had one of his worst seasons in his career. The defense showed signs of life down the stretch, especially stopping the run, with the addition of Damon Harrison via trade and the improvement of A’Shawn Robinson.
Matt Patricia looked to his past in order to rebuild the Lions future. Veterans and former Patriots, Justin Coleman (CB) and Danny Amendola (WR), signed for Detroit, as Patricia looked to add familiar faces. The biggest off-season addition also came via New England, with defensive end Trey Flowers teaming up with his old co-ordinator. Flowers was one of the more sought after free agents of the summer, being the premiere pass-rusher available. T.J. Lang (OL) will be a big loss for the Lions in 2019, but his recent injuries allowed for him to only play in 26% of offensive snaps in 2018.
Via the draft, the Lions added T.J. Hockenson, the universally top-ranked tight end in the draft. His run blocking ability will be a massive help in Bevell’s run heavy offense, but he also provides Stafford with a true Red-Zone threat.
With Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator, emphasis will shift from a pass happy offense, to a run first one. In his 12 seasons as an OC, Bevell’s offense has never come out of the top-12 in terms of rushing. Stafford spent much of the 2018 season playing through a back injury, so expect Bevell to take the ball out of his hands and instead into the talented arms of running back Kerryon Johnson. In 10 games in 2018 Johnson rushed for 641 yards, at an average 5.4 yards per carry. Factor in the replacement of backup LaGarrette Blount with C.J. Anderson and the Lions rushing attack looks a top-10 outfit.
Concerns may lie in the passing game. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are a dependable duo (when both are healthy). Danny Amendola joins the group, but at 34 and coming off one of his worst seasons in the NFL, his contribution will likely be minimal. Hockenson and free agency addition Jesse James will have to provide immediately for this offense.
Success of the 2019 Lions will more than likely hinge on its defense. It all starts upfront, where the defensive line looks one of the strongest units in the entire league. Damon Harrison leads the line and the NFL as the best run-stuffer in football. Look for Da’Shawn Hand to make even greater strides in his second season, as he is a destructive force. As stated, Trey Flowers is an excellent addition, and he joins Romeo Okwara (7.5 sacks in 2018) as Detroit’s pass rushing pair. The recent signing of Mike Daniels, from divisional rivals the Packers, further adds to the depth of this, on paper, outstanding defensive front.
The weakness on defense comes in the secondary, where the Lions are thin. Darius Slay, after back-to-back Pro Bowls, remains one of the best cornerbacks in the league. New addition Justin Coleman will likely play the slot position as he did in Seattle, so it’ll be a training camp battle between Mike Ford, Teez Tabor and Rashaan Melvin for a starting job. This unit needs massive improvement in 2019, as they finished next to last in interceptions.
The Detroits Lions are an interesting team in 2019. If the run game takes off and Matthew Stafford gets back to his former self then the Lions should have success. The defense was good in 2018 after a rough start, and 2019 should see further improvements where talent was added at various positions.
The NFC North is a wide open division, with Chicago Bears being the front runner to win it. It’s a division where all four teams will take wins off each other. That being said, the Lions have a tough schedule, especially to open up; Chargers, Eagles and Chiefs all in the first month could mean the Lions are playing catch up early, and facing an uphill battle to make the playoffs.
Record Prediction: 8-8
Image Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports