The Detroit Lions undoubtedly went through some hardships when it came to injuries in 2019. Matthew Stafford missed the second half of the season due to a back injury, and his backup was only able to play three games before his season ended.
Defensively, the Lions seemed decimated. Da’Shawn Hand, Austin Bryant, and Mike Daniels missed as many (or more) games than they played in, while key contributors in Tracy Walker, Rashaan Melvin, Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones all missed a handful of games.
But we tend to get a little narrowly focused when it comes to assessing a team’s injury problem. Yes, that seems like a ton of injuries, but how does it compare to the rest of the league?
Thankfully, Football Outsiders has a measurement that assesses that exact statistics. Their Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) metric—which is defined as “measurement of the cost of injuries, both in terms of missed games and games where players were not able to play to their full potential”—offers a number for each team.
Detroit’s AGL for 2019 was 87.8, ninth-highest in the entire NFL and third-highest in the NFC. While the number pales in comparison to the New York Jets, whose 160.1 AGL is the second-highest number in AGL history (since 2001), it’s still a significant number for Detroit. Compare it to the rest of the NFC North:
After the 2019 season ended, general manager Bob Quinn didn’t want to use injuries as an excuse for the team’s 3-12-1 record, but he did certainly mention their impact on the team:
“Now, I’m never going to sit up here ever and say that injuries are an excuse. They’re not. We had a lot of injuries this year, and we have to look at that and see what happened there, and see where we can get better,” Quinn said.
And while injuries certainly aren’t the sole excuse for Detroit’s poor play, it’s obvious looking at Football Outsiders’ numbers that health is certainly a factor in nearly every team’s performance. Of the 10 teams with the highest AGL (most injuries), only two had a positive team DVOA (overall team efficiency): the San Francisco 49ers (27th in AGL) and the New England Patriots (23rd in AGL). Similarly, among the 10 least injured teams, only three had a negative DVOA (Falcons, Browns, Steelers).
If you’re interested in more AGL numbers, Football Outsiders also broke them down by position. Of note, the Lions were fourth-worst by quarterback AGL, seventh-worst at running back, ninth-worst at wide receiver and ninth-worst on the defensive line.