We are now 75 percent of the way through a Detroit Lions season that many of us wish would just end. Detroit went 1-3 over the past four games, including two losses to a Chicago Bears team they have dominated in recent years. The Lions season is all but over, but the players individually still have a lot to play for. Here is how everyone graded out in games 9-12 this season.
Name to know: Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford has been a problem this season. The quarterback who used to be magical down the stretch has become a liability in crunch time. Fourth quarter turnovers by the quarterback have doomed the team. Stafford was fine in the team’s one win against the Carolina Panthers but overall these past four games may be the worst stretch he has had in years.
Running Backs: C
Names to know: Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner
Kerryon Johnson was in the midst of a great rookie season when a knee injury sidelined him. The running back was having a great game against Carolina when he had to leave the game, and he has not returned to action since. Backup LeGarrette Blount put together a great performance on Thanksgiving, racking up 88 yards and two scores.
The unit has not been able to sustain success, though. Johnson was poor in the Lions first game against the Bears and Blount could not get going against the Los Angeles Rams. Theo Riddick has been awful as well. This unit has shown potential but still has not proven that they can be relied on week to week.
Wide Receivers: B
Names to know: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Bruce Ellington, TJ Jones
This unit seemed doomed when Marvin Jones Jr. went down with a season ending injury after the first matchup against Chicago. They have been fine, though. As much as that analytics crew likes to harp on the lack of separation they create that’s just who Detroit has been all season.
Kenny Golladay erupted and carried the team to their lone win in the last four games. Bruce Ellington seems to be Jim Bob Cooter’s favorite player and the new receiver has played a multitude of roles in the offense. TJ Jones has still been disappointingly quiet.
The issues the Lions have creating separation seems to be more of a Bob Quinn problem than an individual player problem. None of these players are guys who have been expert route runners in the past and Detroit always knew that. They have done almost all that is expected of them.
Tight Ends: D
Names to know: Levine Toilolo, Luke Willson, Michael Roberts
Levine Toilolo showed life against the Rams but the tight end position has still been pretty much absent for the team. Luke Willson has quietly been a terrible free agent flop. Michael Roberts fell right back into irrelevancy as quickly as he arrived. The loss of Golden Tate should have opened opportunity for them but they have failed so seize it.
Also, none of them can block.
Offensive Tackles: D
Names to know: Rick Wagner, Taylor Decker
Rick Wagner is an entirely different player now the he was the first half of the season. His level of play has seemingly fallen off of a cliff and he has gone from steady force on the Lions right edge to total liability. Taylor Decker has been inconsistent and not himself either as it still seems like he is battling through some sort of injuries. Both tackles have seen a huge drop in play recently and the entire team is struggling as a result.
Decker did score a touchdown against the Rams, though, so that’s cool.
Interior Offensive Line: D
Names to know: Kenny Wiggins, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Tyrell Crosby
The interior offensive line has struggled just as much as their counterparts on the exterior. Frank Ragnow has very quietly been terrible the past few games. Graham Glasgow has always been inconsistent, and he has definitely been on more of a down than up recently. In a weird twist, Kenny Wiggins may be the best of the three. Wiggins is bad too, though, and they have struggled mightily.
Interior Defensive Line: A
Names to know: Damon Harrison Sr., Da’Shawn Hand, A’Shawn Robinson
The interior defensive line being the only good unit on the roster is an M. Night Shyamalan-level plot twist. Damon Harrison has absolutely revolutionized the teams run defense since he came in from New York. He has even been okay as a pass penetrator. A’Shawn Robinson has developed into a great run stuffer of his own. Da’Shawn has been quiet in recent weeks as his workload has significantly reduced now that he is not the only capable defensive lineman anymore. He has been great as well, though. If there is anything positive Detroit can pull from this season it’s the stand out play for their defensive front.
Edge Defenders: C
Names to know: Ezekiel Ansah, Devon Kennard, Romeo Okwara, Eli Harold
This is the most inconsistent unit on the team. Devon Kennard looked like a star to start the season but has not done much in recent weeks. He stood out in the game against the Rams, but was fairly quiet in the three previous games. Ezekiel Ansah has been great since his return from injury, though, and dare I say he has even made a case for getting re-signed by the Lions.
There still is not much beyond those two, though. Romeo Okwara will pop up on occasion but for the most part he has been quiet. Eli Harold had a decent game against the Rams, but he did not even play in the two previous games.
Names to know: Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin
It is still tough to gauge this unit. Jarrad Davis shows flashes at times but he still has not been as great as his draft billing. Davis has improved as a pass rusher recently but his inability to drop into coverage and properly fill his gap on run plays has been a part of the Lions’ struggles. Christian Jones has improved a bit since his terrible first half of the season, though. He is still a liability defending the run but he has been better in coverage. Jalen Reeves-Maybin has not done much for the team at all this season and he has been one of the many disappointments on the roster this year.
Names to know: Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Mike Ford, Teez Tabor
This is the most underperforming unit on the team outside of quarterback. Darius Slay is still in the midst of an out-of-character down year. He is not breaking up passes like he used to be able to and he has struggled to even keep up with opponents. Nevin Lawson still has no idea how to properly break up a pass. The emergence of UDFA Mike Ford as a legitimate option at CB2 has been a boon for this unit but even he has had problems with inconsistency. Teez Tabor has practically vanished.
Corner is Detroit’s top need heading into the offseason, and do not be surprised if this unit looks a lot different next year.
Names to know: Glover Quin, Quandre Diggs, Tavon Wilson, Tracy Walker
This unit played better over the past four games than they did previously, but their struggles have continued. Glover Quin is still washed up and the fact that Tracy Walker still has not been able to overtake him on the depth chart is a little worrying. Walker has shown promise in the game time that he has gotten, but there has to be a reason the coaches would rather have Quin out there. Quandre Diggs is still a great run stopper who struggles a bit in coverage. The decision to re-sign Tavon Wilson this offseason looks worse every week as his playing time has evaporated.