Three Reasons to Be Excited for the Detroit Lions in 2018
We may still be 91 days away from kicking off the 2018 NFL season, 95 if you're awaiting a Monday night kickoff, yet the buzz leading up to the regular season is already alive and active.
For Detroit Lions fans, there is always reason to be skeptical whenever anyone gives reasons to be excited for the upcoming season. There have been countless letdowns in the past, but Detroit has been much more competitive of late, though still on the outside looking in at the elite teams.
That being said, there are once again reasons to be excited for the Lions' 2018 season. Let's dive into what those are.
A Run Game in Detroit?
Is anyone else getting tired of hearing how horrible the Lions' run game is? Try finding an article about the offense without a statistic about how long it has been since they've had a 100 yard rusher in a game.
Well, if things don't change this year, manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia won't be blamed for not trying.
Firing former offensive line coach Ron Prince and hiring current offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, signing running back LeGarrette Blount, and drafting interior offensive lineman Frank Ragnow and running back Kerryon Johnson with the 1st and 2nd pick in the NFL Draft are just a few moves Quinn and Patricia have made in an attempt to fix the infamous run game.
Ok, so they made some changes, but is there any reason to be excited about them? For now, yes.
Davidson is a massive upgrade from Prince as offensive line coach, if only for the sole reason that he actually has experience playing the position as a starting guard for the Denver Broncos. Add in that he has eight years of experience as an offensive line coach, and expectations should be high.
Blount comes to Detroit fresh off of two straight Super Bowl wins. The bruising power back led the NFL in touchdowns in 2016 with 18, and he showed last year that he still has a little gas left with a healthy 4.4 yards per carry on 173 rushing attempts.
Quinn and Patricia went all in on the run game in the NFL Draft. There were mixed reviews about the overall draft, but there is reason for optimism with the players brought in.
Ragnow is a mammoth of a lineman standing at 6'5" and weighing in at 308 pounds. He didn't allow a single sack in 41 games at both the center and guard positions in college. He is an immediate upgrade on the offensive line for Davidson to work with.
Johnson has the potential to be an every down workhorse at the running back position. He showed the ability to carry the load in the SEC as the starter for Auburn, averaging five yards per carry while accumulating 1,320 yards in his last year. Though Patricia will most likely take a running back by committee approach, Johnson should get his fair share of opportunities in 2018.
Patricia's Defensive Mastermind
Detroit didn't do as much this off-season as some thought they should on the defensive side of the ball. Holes on the defensive line and outside linebacker positions brought many to believe the Lions would be active in free agency and choose defense first in the draft.
That wasn't the case, but it doesn't necessarily mean it is time to panic. In fact, it could mean just the opposite.
Patricia assessed his defense, and he believed that he had the talent to work with to produce the defensive impact that he desired without using a first or second round draft pick on a defensive player or spending big money for a top talent in free agency.
We don't have to look back very far to see what Patricia was able to do with defenses that were starving for big names in New England, and Detroit already has some weapons on defense for Patricia to play with.
Pro bowl cornerback Darius Slay and veteran safety Glover Quinn create one of the league's best cornerback-safety duos in the NFL. Meanwhile, Second year linebacker Jarrad Davis should only build off of his strong finish to his rookie season. Lastly, sack machine Ezekiel Ansah will be back with the versatility to play all over the field at different positions off of the edge of the defensive line.
Apart from the stars listed above, Detroit's roster is full of young potential. Maybe the talent was already there, and they simply needed someone who could bring the full potential out of them.
Time will tell if Patricia, with his ability to utilize players in a multitude of different positions, can get many of the same players who lined up for the Lions last year to offer much more this year. There is plenty of reason for optimism now that a defensive mastermind is in control.
Stafford's Loaded Weapons
While it remains to be seen what Patricia does with the defense, and while the new additions to the run game still need to prove themselves, there is one thing that is for sure. Matthew Stafford is back, and he has all of his weapons returning and then some.
1,000 yard receivers Marvin Jones Jr., and Golden Tate return looking to continue their one-two punch. Jones Jr. led the NFL with 18 yards per reception in 2017, while Tate led all wide receivers with 546 yards after the catch. The two wide receivers form a formidable combination with Tate handling the short game, while Jones Jr. stretches the field over the top of the defense.
Kenny Golladay will also be returning after a banged up 2017 rookie season in which he showed flashes of his talent. After a hype-filled 2017 preseason, Golladay exploded onto the scene with a two touchdown performance in his first ever regular season game. A healthy and more experienced Golladay will add another threat for opposing defenses to worry about. He could be in for a breakout year.
Lastly, Theo Riddick will continue to come out of the backfield as one of the NFL's most dangerous receiving running backs. In his last four seasons, Riddick has averaged 72 receptions per season. Even with a crowded backfield, Riddick should see plenty of opportunities in passing situations, as his talent is too great to be left on the bench.
Monday Night Opener
Detroit will get to show off it's new look under coach Patricia in a Monday night home opener against the New York Jets. Ford Field should be an amazing atmosphere, and the Lions will have all of the motivation they need to start the 2018 season strong and prove that they are an improved, more well-balanced team on both sides of the ball.
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© 2018 Micah Reum