At this point in the preseason, you should have a good feeling for where a team is heading. Then again, Lions fans know better than anyone what it’s like to be a preseason darling, only to not do anything during the regular season.
While things may seem better — or worse — on paper, we won’t really know what to expect from this group of Lions until Sep. 11 when they travel to Indianapolis to kick off the season against the Colts.
Until then, here are 15 things I think I know heading into the final week of the preseason:
- I think the offensive line is the key to the offensive success. If they can keep Matthew Stafford clean and open some holes in the run game, everyone in Detroit can sleep better at night. If not, Bob Quinn is going to have his work cut out for him next offseason looking to replace several former high draft picks along the line.
- I think Matthew Stafford is still a sporadic player. If you’re looking for Stafford to continue to ride that high from the backend of last season, he might do it, but it will come in spurts. He’s going to have to do it for a full year for me to become a true believer in #Cooterball.
- Speaking of #Cooterball, I think the Lions are going to try their hardest to go up-tempo in 2016. That could be a good thing if all the players are on the same page, but if it turns out to be too many three and outs, it’s going to put a lot of stress on the Lions’ defense.
- I think Travis Swanson may finally be getting settled at center. Our own Andrew Kato broke down Swanson’s performance against the Ravens and there are a lot of things to like.
- I think Geoff Schwartz is a good guy, and would have been a good Lion. The problem for Schwartz is that he simply didn’t fit with the numbers. The Lions drafted several offensive linemen this year and all of those guys are cheaper. Part of me likes that the Lions released Schwartz because it shows they feel comfortable about the depth. I also like that they did it now so it gives him time to catch on with another team.
- I think Ameer Abdullah can, and will rush for 1000 yards this season. Up to this point, it’s been cold hard facts, but here’s a little prediction for you all. If he plays all 16 games, he’s going to get 1000 yards. The last Lions running back to rush for over 1000 yards was Reggie Bush in 2013. Before that? Kevin Jones in 2004. Good luck, Ameer. I’m counting on you.
- I think Anquan Boldin won’t live up to his initial preseason hype. But I think he’s going to become vital on third downs. When Stafford has to make a play, Boldin is the type of guy who can make it.
- I think Marvin Jones will be the steal of free agency. Much like Golden Tate after he signed with Detroit, many thought he might have come at too high a price, but Jones will be worth every penny.
- I think if any of the starting linebackers go down with an injury it’s going to be a long season. The top three guys look pretty well set with DeAndre Levy, Tahir Whitehead, and Kyle Van Noy — yes, him! Outside of that, it’s all a hot mess.
- I think if the Lions want to compete for the division they must learn to stop the run, and run the ball. It’s simple, but it’s true.
- I think if Teryl Austin wants to become a head coach his defense is going to have to play lights out. After interviewing the last two offseasons, it’s either going to be third time's the charm or three strikes and you’re out. How the Lions’ defense performs in 2016 will go a long way towards what that future looks like.
- I think Bob Quinn gets a B+ grade from me so far this offseason. Keeping Jim Caldwell wasn’t the easy thing to do. In fact, it would have been easier to just fire him and start fresh. But Quinn saw what else was there and decided to stick with what he had. I thought it was a smart move at the time and still do now. I also like the way he’s going about building the team. And he’s not afraid to cut bait early when a guy isn’t working out. So far, so good from my perspective.
- I think the Lions dodged a serious bullet when Eric Ebron wasn’t lost for the season. He hasn’t lived up to the 10th overall pick status that everyone expects, but he’s gotten better every year and is poised to break out in 2016. He could thrive in Jim Bob Cooter’s fast paced, quick throw offense.
- I think Haloti Ngata has plenty of gas left in the tank. He’s had a really nice showing this preseason, and with a year under his belt in the Lions’ defensive system, he should still be a disruptive force along the defensive line.
- I think the Lions could go 10-6, or 6-10. Nobody this time of year thinks their team is going to win six or fewer games, but it’s realistic for the Lions. It’s also just as realistic that everything clicks together and the team outperforms the preseason predictions to make the playoffs. My hunch is, however, that they’ll land somewhere in between.