We are somehow already a quarter of the way through the NFL season. After months of sitting around waiting for football to make its grand return it feels like so much of the season has already passed by.
Part of the reason why it doesn’t feel like the season has even really gotten going is that the Lions as a team haven’t really gotten going yet. They are 1-3 at the moment and there are many issues everywhere around the roster that still need to be fixed.
Today we’ll grade each individual unit on this team over the past 4 games and see where they all stand at this point in the season.
Names to know: Matt Patricia, Jim Bob Cooter, Paul Pasqualoni
The Detroit Lions have had one horrid game and one amazing one. The team was absolutely embarrassed by the New York Jets Week 1, then had an absolute master class of a performance a few weeks later against the New England Patriots. Both of these games seem like outliers.
In the other two games this season the Lions were dominated until late by the San Francisco 49ers and lost a late thriller against the Dallas Cowboys. In both of the losses, the Lions play calling was a disaster, and the front seven looked like they had no idea what they were doing against the run. Benching Teez Tabor for Nevin Lawson in Week 2 was an interesting choice that immediately backfired and put the team in an early hole.
A 9-7 team from only a year ago looks like a 4-12 team this season. The incredible performance against the Patriots is the only thing salvaging the coaching grades at the moment. This team does not look ready to compete.
Name to know: Matthew Stafford
The Lions long time starting quarterback got off to a shocking start to the 2018 season but has steadily improved since. He threw four interceptions in the season opener against the Jets but has only thrown one in the three games since. The quarterback had a rough game against the 49ers in Week 2. He wasn’t the main feature of the offense in the Week 3 victory over the Patriots, so the Week 4 loss to the Cowboys was the first time we were able to see him at his best. While his game in Dallas shows promise for his return to form for the rest of the season, his shaky start to the season is definitely a huge factor in the team’s rough start to the season.
Running Backs: C
Names to know: Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick
Detroit’s “new and improved” run game looks a lot more “new” than “improved” so far. Kerryon Johnson has been the star of the Lions running back unit. The rookie broke the 100-yard mark in the Week 3 win and holds the most responsibility for the team’s lone win. Outside of that one game, though, the Lions run game has been inefficient. LeGarrette Blount has quietly been awful this season and Theo Riddick has not been producing at his normal rate as either a runner or receiver. A lot of the blame for the run game’s struggles does fall on the offensive line, but this unit has to step their game up if they want to meet expectations.
Wide Receivers: A
Names to know: Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones
If there is one bright spot for the Lions this season it is the amazing play of their receivers. Kenny Golladay has emerged as Matthew Stafford’s favorite target this season. The second-year player’s 23 receptions has almost matched his 2017 receiving total in 28. Golden Tate is still a YAC-king. Marvin Jones has been quieter this season than he was in the last but the receiver has still proven to be a reliable target. With Stafford only getting better, and the Lions receiving corps looking like one of the best in the league, it looks like the onus will fall on them to save Detroit’s season.
Tight Ends: F
Names to know: Luke Willson, Michael Roberts, Levine Toilolo, Hakeem Valles
While the wide receiver have been amazing, the new look tight end unit has been awful this season. The four tight ends on the roster have combined for 13 catches and 74 yards. Michael Roberts touchdown in Week 2 is the only one scored by a tight end this season. While Levine Toilolo has been decent as a blocker, this unit needs to step up to match the production of Eric Ebron and Darren Fells from last season.
Interior Offensive Line: C
Names to know: Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang, Frank Ragnow, Kenny Wiggins
The Lions interior offensive line has been hit or miss this season. First round pick Frank Ragnow took some time to find his footing in the league, but he has been great the past few weeks. Graham Glasgow and T.J. Lang have been great in pass protection as well. The run blocking from this unit, especially from Glasgow, hasn’t been up to par. They are partly responsible for the team’s failures running the ball. With Lang out as well, Kenny Wiggins is in the lineup. Wiggins isn’t a very good run or pass blocker, and the potential of him starting can possibly ruin the entire offense.
Names to know: Rick Wagner, Taylor Decker
Detroit’s pass protection this season has been great and much of it is a result of the great play by the Lions tackles. Both Wagner and Decker were great in Week 2 and Week 3. Last week’s matchup with the Cowboys pass rush eventually got the better of Decker and Wagner, but overall they have been great. Their run blocking could be better, but I also don’t think the Lions should be running the ball at all, so that doesn’t take way from great pass protection.
Interior Defensive Line: D
Names to know: Da’Shawn Hand, Sylvester Williams, A’Shawn Robinson, Ricky Jean Francois
There is not a unit on the Lions roster more responsible for the teams failure this season than the interior defensive line. A’Shawn Robinson was a healthy scratch at one point and has not been a great run stopper when he was in the lineup. Ricky Jean-Francois and Sylvester Williams are both free agent flops. Neither have been reliable pass rushers and they can’t hold their gaps in the run game. Da’Shawn Hand, a rookie drafted to play on the edge who transferred inside, is the only bright spot in this unit. He has been able to chew up space inside and hold his gaps in the run game. Outside of Hand, this defensive line has been pretty much useless to the team. They are responsible for the team’s terrible run defense and they haven’t provided much of a pass rush either.
Edge Defenders: B
Names to know: Devon Kennard, Ezekiel Ansah, Eli Harold, Kerry Hyder, Romeo Okwara
One of the biggest concerns heading into the season was the Lions lack of quality edge defenders. They have exceeded expectations and then some. Devon Kennard has been a star free agent signing. He has 4.0 sacks in four games, matching his 2017 total. Eli Harold and Romeo Okwara, late additions to the team, have been productive as well. Ezekiel Ansah was supposed to be the star of the unit but has missed time with a shoulder injury. Once he returns the Lions edge unit can only get better.
Names to know: Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Detroit’s linebackers were a problem last season and not much has changed. While Jarrad Davis has been a little better in coverage this season than last, he often gets lost and finds himself behind plays. Christian Jones has done more harm than good and the weak side linebacker looks like he has no idea how to stop the run. Jalen Reeves-Maybin is the only other linebacker getting regular playing time, and he hasn’t really done much to make up for the failures of his peers. The linebackers are better than they were last season, but that isn’t saying much.
Names to know: Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Teez Tabor, Quandre Diggs, Jamal Agnew, Deshawn Shead
Darius Slay is still a shut down corner. He had a quiet start to the season but absolutely dominated the Week 4 game against the Dallas Cowboys. The rest of the unit has been awful, though. Nevin Lawson had a horrid game against the New York Jets in Week 1, then was benched for Teez Tabor in Week 2. Tabor instantly made the team regret that decision and got benched again. They brought Deshawn Shead back from training camp and while he didn’t play against the Cowboys, one has to imagine he will replace both Lawson and Tabor in the lineup. Jamal Agnew is a punt returner and whenever he lines up in coverage it’s almost a guaranteed first down for the other team.
Names to know: Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson, Tracy Walker
The once reliable safety unit took a step back for Detroit this season. Glover Quin hasn’t been his normal self as it seems that his nine years in the NFL may finally have worn down his body. Tavon Wilson has looked lost in coverage. Tracy Walker has played a role in the defense, but he hasn’t done much to stand out yet. While they haven’t been terrible, no one from this unit has looked very good either.