Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the first edition of The Saturday Night Spotlight. I am your host, KDawg. Every week from here through the end of the season, I am going to write a post on Saturday night to discuss key players for the Lions in their Sunday matchups. Just to give you guys a taste of what I will bring all season long, this week’s edition of the SNS will examine a couple of key offensive and defensive players, who I feel will have a major impact on the upcoming game between the Detroit Lions and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I will name them, explain why I feel they are going to be key to the efforts of the team this week, and offer some subjective analysis as my reasoning, after the jump. Keep in mind that this is preseason, and the players I am going to discuss will likely only play in a few series (the real key players will be the 2nd and 3rd team players in this case).
I want to start out this week by pointing out that the Steelers run a 3-4 base defense. I don’t think anyone here can forget how we struggled against 3-4 defenses last season (outside of Cleveland), and this point brings me to my first key player selection, Matthew Stafford. Stafford, how well he has developed this offseason and how much he has learned about NFL defenses, will be the key to the Lion’s success, or lack thereof, this week. Of course you could make the point that Stafford is our key to success every week, but it is even more true this week, and I’ll tell you why. There will be extra traffic in the passing lanes due to the extra linebacker, a lot more shifting and moving than you normally see out of a 4-3, before the snap on the defensive side, and multiple sets of blitzes and zone blitzes, which will all create a lot more confusion for Stafford if he is not ready for what they will bring at him.
I think it goes without saying that the offensive line will have more trouble with the 3-4 defense, as they will have to contend with the extra movement and blitzes as well, which further solidifies the fact that Stafford will need to be on his A game this week if the Lions are going to win. He will have to be very good at recognizing the blitzes, moving around in the pocket, following through his progressions, making the right reads, evading the pass rush, and completing passes to the open man if we are to have any hope of moving the ball and controlling the clock against the Steelers. Should he fail at one or more of these things, the Lions will be in for a very long day on offense, our defense will be on the field a lot, and our chances of winning will be small. Football is a team game, and it will certainly help if our linemen block, our RBs are doing well, and our receivers are catching the ball too.
That said; let’s move on to the defensive side of the ball. My pick for the Lions key defensive player this week is Ndamukong Suh. If the rookie can show up big here and create a lot of pressure in the middle of the pocket, I believe that it will be very difficult for Pittsburgh to run the ball against us on running downs, and it will force their QB to make quicker decisions on passing downs. Not only would a lot of pressure in the middle of the defensive line cause problems for the opposing offense, but it will also free up our the rest of the defensive line, as well as our linebackers, to do their jobs. I say this because I believe that if Suh is on his A game, the Steelers will be forced to double team him in order to slow him down. This will create one on one matchups for the rest of the defensive line, while at the same time opening more space for the linebackers to shoot in and stop the run.
Again, football is a team game and it goes without saying that the rest of the team will need to do their jobs as well, but if Suh is dominating the middle of the opposing offense then it will seriously help other make big plays. Not only would his dominance make it difficult for the Steelers to run against us, but also it would impose the potential for mistakes to be made by the opposing QBs on passing downs. Suh’s presence in the middle, and the pressure that he creates, should force the opposing QB to flush left or right where our outside pass rush will hopefully be waiting to sack the QB. We all saw what happens to the Lions on defense when there is no pressure up the middle, too many times last season. So if Suh is getting pushed around, it will put a lot more pressure on the rest of the defensive line, the linebackers, and the secondary to make plays. If Suh is not his usual dominant self against the Steelers, then in all likelihood we will see many explosion plays, to the effect of our ultimate demise this week.
This has been the Saturday Night Spotlight, and this is KDawg saying have a great night and GOOOOO LIOOOOONNNNNS!
So there it is guys...as the season progresses I will use stats to emphasize my opinions and back my logic. This idea may look like a direct spinoff from what Latif already posted recently, but as I stated on his thread I believe it was too soon to choose key player matchups for every game of the season, when we do not even know who our starters will be yet, who will be injured from week to week, and who will be on their game and who won't. That is why I want to do a weekly post about key players, not only because it makes for good discussion, but also because we need more content on Saturday at POD...:o) Let me know what you think!