The Detroit Lions have reached the halfway point of the season and they are at a disappointing 3-5. Back-to-back wins over the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins had the team riding high less than a month ago, but terrible losses to the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings have fans wondering where this team is going this year. The last four games were rough on Detroit. Here is how each individual unit graded out during the second quarter of the season:
Name to know: Matthew Stafford
Okay, you saw that grade as instantly wanted to scroll down and yell at me in the comments but I can explain. Matthew Stafford was horrid against the Vikings and should receive a lot of the blame for the offense’s ineffectiveness. He was not the best against the Seahawks a week ago either, and while it is hard to blame that loss on him he definitely could have done a little better down the stretch. Stafford was near perfect in the team’s wins against the Dolphins and Packers, though. He did what he needed to do, kept the offense on schedule and kept opposing defenses on their heels. Stafford will need to play better than he has the past few weeks going forward, but overall he was the least of the team’s issues these past four games.
Running Backs: C
Names to know: Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick
Detroit’s run game has been as up and down as their quarterback the past four games. Rookie Kerryon Johnson put together two great performances against the Packers and Dolphins, including his 158-yard day in Miami. He has only combined for 59 yards in the last two games though and has been thoroughly bottled up. In total he is averaging a total 4.4 yards per carry over the past four games. Johnson has also given some help in the receiving game, including a 69-yard day against the Seahawks.
While Johnson has been fine, LeGarrette Blount has been awful. When the running back was brought in it was thought that he would be a goal-line exclusive back. Detroit is trying to give him regular carries as a part of the running back rotation, though, and it is not working out. He averaged 2.7 yards per carry the past four games and handing the ball off to him honestly feels like a wasted down.
Theo Riddick missed two games due to a knee injury. He was one of the team’s top receivers in the loss to the Vikings and he should see an expanded role with Golden Tate out of the picture.
Wide Receivers: B
Names to know: Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, TJ Jones
With Golden Tate in Philly, this will be a unit that will need so step up big time. Even removing the contributions of Tate, this unit has been great the past few games. Kenny Golladay continued his hot start into the season in the game against Green Bay. While the young receiver eventually saw his production taper off a bit, Marvin Jones Jr. stepped up the last three games. Jones had 117 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Seahawks and managed to eke out six receptions for 66 yards in a game against Minnesota where the offense felt stagnant all day.
Tate led the team in receptions in each of the past four years and Detroit will need both Golladay and Jones to step up at the same time without him instead of alternating like they have done in recent weeks. TJ Jones has recently been showing signs of life as well and Detroit needs him to be a part of the offense going forward. It is likely new signing Bruce Ellington helps fill the void Tate left, but this unit still has the most to prove over the next couple of weeks despite their good grade.
Tight Ends: D
Names to know: Michael Roberts, Luke Willson, Levine Toilolo
Detroit needs someone, anyone, from their tight end room to step up on offense. Michael Roberts looked like he was going to become the reliable red zone target that Eric Ebron wasn’t when he caught two touchdown and led the team in receiving yards against Miami. Other than that one game, this entire unit has been absent. Roberts only has one catch since that game. Neither Luke Willson nor Levine Toilolo see regular targets either.
While one can argue that the latter two are primarily supposed to be blockers, they have not been very good blockers anyways. This unit is not producing and the offense is hurting without it.
Interior Offensive Line: C
Names to know: T.J. Lang, Graham Glasgow, Frank Ragnow, Kenny Wiggins
The interior of the Lions offensive line is great when they are all healthy. It is rare that they are all healthy, though. Graham Glasgow seems to have put some of his early season struggles behind him and has been a decent center for the team. Rookie Frank Ragnow has really developed at the guard position, and he has been a huge part of Johnson’s success on the ground. T.J. Lang can still play at a Pro-Bowl level when he is healthy as well.
Lang has trouble staying healthy, though, and when he has to leave the game everything falls apart. The guard missed the game against the Packers and missed portions of the game against Minnesota. When he leaves the lineup he is replaced by Kenny Wiggins, who is a disaster. Wiggins is a six-year veteran who looks like a rookie. He often has trouble finding who to block and lets free defenders run right by him. Every time he is out on the field, the Detroit offense is significantly worse, and he brings down the entire grade for this unit.
Names to know: Taylor Decker, Rick Wagner, Tyrell Crosby
Just a few weeks ago, Detroit looked set at the tackle positions. Taylor Decker still looked like a franchise tackle and Rick Wagner was having an amazing season protecting Stafford’s right edge. Everything has fallen apart for them.
The injury bug has infected Decker once again. He had to leave the game against the Vikings and he was having a horrid game before that anyways. Wagner has now had back-to-back disaster classes and Danielle Hunter made him look like a traffic cone in Week 9. Tyrell Crosby has played limited snaps in his rookie season and Detroit will most likely be depending on the sixth-round pick going forward if the Decker injury is serious.
Interior Defensive Line: B
Names to know: Damon Harrison Sr., Ricky Jean Francois, Da’Shawn Hand, A’Shawn Robinson
This looked like one of the weakest units on the roster entering the season but they have been performing well as of late. Damon Harrison has been everything the Lions could want him to be two weeks into his sting with the team. Rookie Da’Shawn Hand is a versatile player Detroit has been using on the interior and on the edge. He has emerged as the best interior pass rusher on the team and has been consistently great throughout the year.
A’Shawn Robinson was a healthy scratch to start the season but even he looks like he is finding his groove. The third-year player has not been great, but he has shown vast improvements in recent weeks. Ricky Jean Francois should not be on an NFL team but you take the good with the bad I guess.
This unit in incredible when Harrison is in the game and if Robinson can continue improving then the Lions concerns stopping the run may be quelled.
Edge Defenders: C
Names to know: Devon Kennard, Ezekiel Ansah, Romeo Okwara, Eli Harold
The Lions pass rush looked great only a few weeks ago but it now looks like it may be coming apart at the seems. Devon Kennard is still a great player off the edge. He can rush the passer and hold his ground against the run. Ziggy Ansah has finally returned to action and while he only played 12 snaps against Minnesota he did manage to notch up a sack.
Romeo Okwara looked like a great addition to the team early in the season but has since seen his play drop off. He has been a non-factor in the team’s last three games and even became a liability against the run. Eli Harold had to take some time off due to personal matters and has had trouble working his way back into the regular rotation since.
With Ansah back in action, this unit should be better going forward, but the rotational guys need to be better when Ansah or Kennard are out of the game.
Names to know: Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin
At any point over the past few years you could have told me that the Lions linebackers are one of the biggest reasons for any struggles this team has and I would believe you. This year is not any different.
Jarrad Davis has shown a few flashes of developing into the star he was drafted to be but usually regresses back into a player who doesn’t really know what he is doing soon after. Christian Jones may be more at fault then anyone for the team giving up a 50+ yard run almost every week. Reeves-Maybin might as well not be on the field. Detroit’s off-ball linebackers are still bad, they will probably show a few flashes down the line then continue to be bad.
Names to know: Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Teez Tabor
I don’t think anyone foresaw this unit being this bad.
Darius Slay is obviously the star of the Lions defense. He might be the most talented player and his ability to shut down one side of the field can not be matched. When Slay is not playing like an absolute shutdown corner the entire pass defense struggles, though.
Slay had poor games against the Packers and Seahawks. He was great against the Dolphins, though, and Brock Osweiler seemed scared to even look at him.
Everyone else is an issue, though. Nevin Lawson still having a starting job in the NFL is one of our planet’s greatest mysteries. Every week he gets beat on a play that he was in position to stop and it heavily costs the team. 2017 second round pick Teez Tabor would probably be not be an NFL player if not for his draft status, and he has provided little positive for this team. The pass defense has somehow regressed to be worse than the run defense and these are the guys responsible for it.
Names to know: Quandre Diggs, Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson, Tracy Walker
The Lions safeties have taken a huge step back this year. Glover Quin has clearly lost a step. He can not keep up with receivers from his deep safety spot, and putting him in the box does not really help the team much either. Both Quandre Diggs and Tavon Wilson are both run stoppers who struggle in coverage. While Wilson is a great box safety, Diggs does not do well inside and forces the likes on Quin to play inside the box which hurts the team even further. Tracy Walker has looked fine in the limited playing time he has received but he still has not made a real impact on the team. This unit needs an overhaul.