Next up for the 2016 Detroit Lions POD Awards is the category for Detroit Lions Offensive Player of the Year.
In any year, a team’s quarterback is expected to be a top candidate for Offensive Player of the Year. However in 2016, Matthew Stafford distanced himself from the rest of the field. For the majority of the season, we were not only talking about Stafford as the Lions’ best offensive player, but he was getting serious MVP considerations all the way until late December.
Stafford was largely responsible for nearly all of the Lions’ eight comeback wins in 2016. He also limited turnovers, setting a career low in interception percentage. His yards per attempt, completion percentage and passer rating were all well above his career average. Toward the end of the season, his play declined slightly, whether it was due to his dislocated finger or simply tougher opponents. Regardless, he gave the Lions a chance to win those games, despite no running game and an awful defense.
The Lions entered the season full of offensive weapons, so there weren’t many expectations for the aging Boldin. However, by the end of the 2016 season, Boldin was arguably the most important weapon on the field.
Boldin finished second on the team with 67 receptions, but it was when and where he made those catches that made him so valuable. He led the team with eight touchdowns, and 41 of those 67 catches earned first downs for the Lions, despite only averaging 8.7 yards per catch, the lowest on the team among wide receivers. In other words, if Stafford wanted a reliable guy to help move the chain on third down, Boldin was his guy.
In Matthew Stafford’s previous two years, he had been sacked a combined 89 times. However, when the Lions slotted Decker at left tackle—where he would end up playing every single offensive snap at the position in 2016—Stafford’s sack numbers plummeted to just 37. The Lions went from having the 22th-highest adjusted sack rate (sacks divided by passing attempts) in 2015 to 18th in 2016. Decker wasn’t fully responsible for the improvement, but he was clearly the Lions best offensive lineman last season.
After an extremely slow start to the season that had many fans clamoring to have him traded or outright released, Golden Tate eventually emerged as the Lions’ best receiving threat. Tate would become the centerpiece to the Lions’ passing offense around Week 6, and wouldn’t end up relinquishing that title for the rest of the season. After that game, he had five or more catches in all but one week and finished with 70 or more yards in seven of 11 remaining games.
Tate’s ability to rack up yards after the catch made him essentially a replacement to the Lions ineffective running game. Though he struggled at times, he ended up finishing with over 1000 receiving yards for just the second time in his career and leading the Lions with 91 receptions, 24 more than any other player.