The Detroit Lions season is a mere days away, and the Kool-Aid is already flowing. Some may say it's better to temper our expectations to avoid disappointment, but for one more day, let's drink to optimism! Here's why you should be excited about the 2015 Detroit Lions:
1. Matthew Stafford looks goooooood
In his second year under Joe Lombardi's new offense, Stafford just destroyed it in the preseason.
Matthew Stafford's line through three preseason games: 19-25, 308 yards and 3 TDs. A cool 156.3 passer rating.— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) August 29, 2015
And that was without the services of Calvin Johnson. Stafford is completely out of excuses to make a big jump this year, and based on his play in the preseason, he knows it.
2. The Lions running game should be better
Last year, the Lions running game wasn't just bad, it was awful. They ranked 28th in rushing yards per game and yards per carry. This season, the Lions will have a revamped offensive line, a new fullback and Ameer Abdullah. While the all of those pieces are just theoretical upgrades at this point, it's hard to imagine the Lions being any worse at running the ball this year.
3. Special teams cannot be any worse
As mentioned in our Q&A with Football Outsiders, the Lions' special teams units cost them 19.6 placekicking points compared to the league average in 2014. Now that Matt Prater has had a full offseason to get comfortable with his long-snapper and holder, he will almost certainly have a better year than last year. If the Lions don't improve on their 65.8 percent field goal accuracy from last year, I will eat any piece of clothing you're willing to send to me.
Additionally, the Lions have moved on from returner Jeremy Ross. TJ Jones is not a proven commodity, but his youth brings optimism to the position.
4. The defense is returning nine of 11 starters
Much has been made of the Lions' two biggest departures, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. What you hardly hear is how almost the rest of the entire defense has remained intact. The Lions still have stars at all levels of the defense, including DeAndre Levy, Darius Slay, Ezekiel Ansah and Glover Quin, just to name a few. Not to mention, Haloti Ngata is a pretty good stop-gap replacement for Suh. This defense is still extremely talented.
5. Eric Ebron will have an increased role
Ebron's rookie season was plagued by disappointment. His 25 receptions for 248 yards were nowhere near expectations for a first-round draft pick. By all accounts, Ebron came into the offseason more focused, more professional and more whatever other offseason cliché you can come up with. Obviously, talk is cheap when it comes to the offseason, but expectations are still very high for Ebron to make a significant impact on the Lions' offense this season. They'll need it, as Johnson and Golden Tate can't carry the team's passing offense on their own.