The real issues the Detroit Lions must correct in 2015


Most will look at the Detroit Lions off-season thus far and call it a failure. The loss of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley and the subsequent media coverage of only that, has clouded the judgement of many fans and left them scared and pessimistic about the future of the Detroit Lions.

I’m here to tell you that the problem is not the loss of Suh and Fairley. This does not open up so imaginary gaping hole in the defense that sends them from ranking 4th in total defense to 32nd and 4-12. If you’re inclined to believe that, there is no saving you at this point.

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The Lions defense is still quite strong and I would argue that they will be even better in 2015. In my opinion it’s Terryl Austin that made this defense what it is. If you’d like to argue Suh and Fairley, than you can be the guy to explain why they finished 21st, 23rd, 13th and 16th in total defense with Suh and Fairley before Austin showed up.

Without digressing further, there are issues outside of that which have plagued the Lions for years. If the Lions truly hope to take that next step in the NFL, these issues must be resolved.


This has been a thorn in the Lions side for many years. Even with Caldwell bringing a more disciplined approach, the Lions still can’t seem to get out of their own way in this regard. The Lions finished 4th in penalties this season with 126 penalties for 1033 yards.  What’s worse is that the defense always accounts for more. The defense recorded 58 penalties for 468 yards. That’s 468 yards of offense for the opposing team in a 16 game span.

Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions /

Detroit Lions

The other troubling part is that 22 of those penalties came on 4th down. That’s 22 drives extended by detrimental play on 4th down. 8 seems to be the magic number. the Lions were 5-6 this season when committing at least 8 penalties. 4 of the 6 losses had the Lions committing more than 8 penalties and 3 of the 4 are playoff teams.

The Lions must correct these issues on defense. Especially against playoff teams. This of course isn’t a new problem as the Lions defense has ranked 1st, 2nd, 5th, 4th and 4th in defensive penalties since 2010. Of course 56 penalties and 426 yards of that is now in Miami and St’ Louis respectively.

Lack of receiving threats

How could this be you ask? How is it that the Lions could have Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate and still be in need of another receiving threat? Because after those guys it’s a slippery slope.

Johnson and Tate combined for 170 receptions for 2,408 yards and 12 Touchdowns. After the rest of the receiving threats (minus running backs) tallies up to 81 receptions for 943 yards ad 3 touchdowns. The troubling part is that this is divided between 6 players.

The Lions need to have a 3rd and 4th receiving threat that can help when all the attention is on Johnson and Tate. Having another receiving threat also keeps defenses honest and allows the run game to have a little more freedom to work. Eric Ebron can be that guy at tight end, but the Lions need another receiver that can stretch the field and open up opportunities. The Lions can find hidden gems late in the draft or sign a guy like Denarius Moore to help out.

This is a problem that cannot continue to recur. Otherwise the offense will continue to have moments where they are one-dimensional.

Special Teams

Special teams are not a sexy thing to think about. Generally there are no star players and unless a big return happens, there are very few highlights on Sports Center.

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But It’s a very important aspect to the team. The special teams controls the field position in which your offense starts from or your defense has to defend from. The Lions have been dealing with this problem for many years. Whether it was the 2012 team that became the first team in NFL history to allow a return touchdown in two consecutive games or this years team that had trouble starting anywhere past the 2o yard line,

Football Outsiders has the Lions special teams unit ranked 31st in the league. That’s a major decline considering they were 20th in 2013 and 30th in 2012. The Lions must fix this issue in order to really contend. The last three Super Bowl winning teams all have one thing in common. They were all ranked in the top 5 in special teams production. Field position is everything.

Oct 24, 2014; Bagshot, UNITED KINGDOM; Detroit Lions senior personnel executive Brian Xanders (left) and general manager Martin Mayhew at practice at the Pennyhill Park Hotel & The Spa in advance of the NFL International Series game against the Atlanta Falcons. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If the Lions can fix these issues, there is no reason to believe they can’t contend come playoffs time. If they don’t, it could be an uphill battle to do anything other than make the Wild Card. Not because Suh and Fairley left, but because this is what the real contenders do and this is how they win championships.

What do you think? What else can the Lions do to get them over the hump? Leave your comments below and feel free to argue with me on Twitter @Lionmike26

Next: Take a look at the projected Detroit Lions depth chart