The Detroit Lions’ 2016 season couldn’t have ended on a more sour note. After jumping out to a shocking 9-4 record, the Lions fell in their final four games, including a decisive loss to the Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs.
Detroit not only look bad in the final month of the season, but they were clearly outclassed by the conference’s best teams. It was a humbling string of games for a Lions fanbase that was not only hoping for a division title, but possibly even an MVP campaign for their quarterback.
As the Lions now turn their focus to the future, so do we. Today’s Questions of the Day is:
How do you feel about the future of the Detroit Lions?
My answer: I feel pretty good. There are some good and bad things I can take from the 2016 season. The bad is that this Lions roster was actually a lot worse than I originally thought. Though the Lions outperformed my preseason 8-8 prediction, I expected so much more from the defense this year. And once playmakers like DeAndre Levy, Ezekiel Ansah, Quandre Diggs, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick were battling with injuries, the team fell apart. We talked a lot about the depth that Bob Quinn was building in the offseason, but that depth did not pass the stress test when forced into play late in the season.
That being said, the Lions finished the season with 11 rookies on their 53-man roster. While the Lions don’t have the flashy rookies like the ones in Dallas, they do have a foundation that could prove more important down the line. Take, for example, the Pro Football Focus grades of Saturday night’s game:
The two highest grades on offense were the Lions’ two starting rookie offensive linemen. On the other side of the ball, A’Shawn Robinson has fully assumed a starting role at defensive tackle. Meanwhile, Miles Killebrew, Joe Dahl, Antwione Williams, Anthony Zettel and Dwayne Washington all received valuable game time that will help their further development. We still don’t know what the Lions have in a lot of these prospects and the fact that they got playing time is probably says more about how thin the Lions’ roster was. Simply getting playing time isn’t necessarily going to make these rookies any better, but Detroit likely has a better handle on who they have in these rookies now and where they need to get better.
I think Bob Quinn’s first year was mostly a success. Though he had a few significant errors—the Asa Jackson signing and the Andrew Quarless fiasco come to mind—he also made some savvy moves, like placing Josh Bynes on injured reserve before cutting him and getting him back without burning their IR-return designation. He also proved willing to make tough decisions and cut losses like Kyle Van Noy or Gabe Wright. The free agency signings of Anquan Boldin, Johnson Bademosi and Tavon Wilson were all better than expected, too.
While many will rightfully question whether Jim Caldwell is the right coach for this team’s future, I think we can all agree the talent level on this team was not up to par this season. With Quinn pulling the roster strings for the foreseeable future, I think that’s reason enough to be optimistic about Detroit going forward.