Looking down the barrel of 5-11 season, many Detroit Lions fans are likely feeling a similar emotion: disappointment.
The franchise is at its lowest point since their infamous 0-16 season, but at least that failure yielded a reward in the form of the first overall pick. The career of said first overall pick, Matthew Stafford, has had plenty of highs and lows en route to cementing himself as the best quarterback in Lions history, but an achievement remains ever elusive for him: playoff success. This isn’t to say that Stafford is bad—I am, after all, an advocate that Quarterback Wins are not a stat. This speaks more to the disappointment lingering in the minds of players and fans. If there is anyone that deserves success, it is Matthew Stafford, and this franchise has not been able to give it to him.
Elsewhere in the land of letdowns is the entire defense. With a defense on par (and possibly worse than) the 2008 team, you need not look far to see players that have underperformed. Trey Flowers has been hurt. Jeff Okudah is not living up to his draft status. Jahlani Tavai keeps getting worse. Amani Oruwariye is not cut out for a starting role. Jamie Collins is not the spark plug this team needed. Da’Shawn Hand cannot stay healthy. Desmond Trufant is either injured or bad. Justin Coleman is proving to be overpaid. Tracy Walker has not grown into the starter we envisioned. Duron Harmon got his soul stolen by Corey Davis. Will Harris is Will Harris.
You would be better off listing the positives, for there are few. Romeo Okwara has blossomed in a great pass rusher, but there is the lingering prospect of pending free agency to dampen the excitement. As for other positives... John Penisini maybe?
The offense has not exactly been superb either. Although things are improving in the weeks following the dismissal of Matt Patricia, this season has been disappointing at many positions. Stafford, as mentioned, could likely see his Detroit tenure end without a playoff win. Kenny Golladay could not follow up his fantastic 2019 campaign, bothered by injury early and never quite recovering from it. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, a prized free agent acquisition, might not even be the sixth best lineman on this team due to injuries. Even D’Andre Swift, an electric rookie running back, has lost touches to injury and Adrian Peterson. Jonah Jackson looks like a solid piece along the offensive line, and T.J. Hockenson and Frank Ragnow are among the best at their positions, but their successes are overshadowed by the results of this season.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Which player has had the most disappointing season?
My answer: I believe Tracy Walker has been the biggest disappointment this season.
As someone that came into the season predicting Oruwariye as a dark horse defensive MVP candidate, his struggles are disappointing, sure, but I also have to acknowledge that he has probably been the best corner in a batch of bad ones. The safety position, while not fantastic on paper by any means, still had more optimism, and that optimism was named Tracy Walker.
Many, myself included, viewed Walker as a breakout candidate in 2020. He had shown plenty of promise in his first few seasons, and he looked primed for a fulltime gig to establish himself as a top tier safety.
Instead, we were met with confusion early on as Will Harris garnered more and more snaps in his stead. It was much ado about nothing, however, for when Walker returned to the starting role, his play was arguably worse than his rookie season. The transition from breakout star to borderline backup is stunning for the safety, and it leaves Detroit in an awful situation going forward.
Will Harris is clearly not panning out, and Duron Harmon and Jayron Kearse might be walking in free agency. That leaves Miles Killebrew—also a free agent—and C.J. Moore on the depth chart at safety, both of whom are special teams players. After a time with Glover Quin and Quandre Diggs lurking in the secondary, the Lions could without a single starting caliber safety. Given the holes
elsewhere everywhere on the roster, the Lions might not have the ability to fill that void either.
A starting tandem of Will Harris and Tracy Walker is not an exciting prospect on paper. Harris might not ever become a starter, but the Lions had better hope Walker can regain that spark he had earlier in his career.