This is my first post here on POD and I want to let you all know that I am a die-hard Lions fan, but at the same time I am realistic and every off season I try to carefully avoid sipping the blue kool aid in fear of another let down. With that being said I'm going to turn the tables a bit and tell you why we should all be excited for the 2011 season.
Matthew Stafford is the real deal: Yeah I said it. Matthew Stafford is a legitimate franchise quarterback despite his recent problems with injuries. It's impossible to be have a successful team in the NFL without having quality quarterback play. Stafford has shown in his short amount of time playing for the Lions that he has both tangible and intangible qualities that are needed to be a successful, winning quarterback in the NFL. I know that some of you are skeptical and say that he doesn't have heart but he clearly showed heart in the form of leadership in the Cleveland game two seasons ago and the fourth quarter comeback against the Redskins this season. I know that he only played 9 quarters of football this season but his field awareness improved greatly from his rookie season and his statistics backed that up (6-1 TD-INT ratio and 91.3 QB Rating.) His physical tools are obvious. He has one of the strongest throwing arms in the league, and he can make any throw on the field when our offensive line gives him time. I look forward to Stafford playing all of next season and breaking on to the national scene as a pro bowl caliber quarterback.
Our front office and coaching staff are doing all of the right things: The Lions had a very successful off-season in 2010 and we can thank Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand for that. The FO added many solid starters to the roster and our win total tripled as a result of that. Now that the Lions have earned some notoriety with the season ending 4 game winning streak and our 2 pro bowl starters, I expect a few solid free agents to show us interest in the off season and I expect Mayhew to lure them in and to be successful in free agency and in the draft like we were last year. Schwartz, Linehan, and Cunningham did a great job during our winning streak and I finally feel confident that we have a good coaching staff for the first time this decade. I was one of those fans calling for Linehan's head at the beginning of last season but he really turned things around and improved his play calling later in the season. Having the same coaching staff for the third year in a row will help a lot because the players will be incredibly comfortable with our system. I feel like Jim Schwartz is the right guy for the job and I am confident that he will be around for a long time.
Their is finally excitement surrounding this Organization: The season ending 4 game winning streak and the pro bowl seasons of Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh have created a buzz about Lions football. The rest of the NFL is beginning to notice us and our fellow die-hard fans are anxious for a break out season next year. I guarantee that the Lions will have a large increase in ticket sales next season and we won't have to worry about our Sundays being ruined because of a potential blackout. I also expect to see more people wearing Lions jerseys all throughout the great state of Michigan in the near future.
On a side note I would like to see us draft either Gabe Carimi or Nate Soldier with our first round selection. I'm a fan of going defense and drafting a linebacker or corner but I do not see any legitimate players at those positions that will be around the 13th pick range. Akeem Ayers is not a first round linebacker. He has an NFL body and is athletic but he only had 68 tackles last season on a very average defense. That is not impressive. It would be a good idea to draft one of the left tackles (I prefer Carimi) to protect Stafford, so we can move Backus inside and get rid of Peterman, and improve the running game and cut down on penalty's.
The roar is being restored and I promise you POD that we will have fun watching our Lions in 2011! I'm going to wait to see how free agency and the draft turns out before I predict a win total for next season but it will be above .500