The Detroit Lions officially opened training camp Wednesday morning. The 2019 season is going to be a crucial one for quarterback Matt Stafford, head coach Matt Patricia and the Lions staff.
On the heels of a 6-10 season, Patricia will be under the gun to produce better results this season. The good news for Lions fans is that there are plenty of reasons why this team should and will be better in 2019.
Better than the record indicates
Yes, it sounds cliché but it is true, the Lions could have easily been 10-6 and not 6-10 last season. With last-second losses to the 49ers, Cowboys, Bills, and Bears, Detroit could have been contending for a divisional crown instead of saying “what if.”
The truth is, no one remembers close losses. They just remember that you lost. The Lions are full of young talent and they could be the surprise team in the NFL. While experts at the USA Today believe that Detroit will finish dead last in the NFC North, could it be possible that they could finish the polar opposite? Yes, and here is why.
The 5 reasons
Defense – They always say defense wins championships. In Matt Patricia’s first year as coach, the Lions finished 10th overall in defense in the NFL. That is a huge improvement from 2017. Under Jim Caldwell, Detroit was ranked No. 27 overall on defense. Da’Shawn Hand, A’Shawn Robinson, and Romeo Okwara played great in 2018.
Now add a full season of Snacks Harrison and Trey Flowers upfront, and very good returning linebackers Devon Kennard, Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones to the mix and the Lions may have one of the best D-Lines in the NFL.
Divisional parity is there – This is a big one. Every year the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings slug it out. If the Lions (who recently owned the Packers and always play well against Minnesota) can just hold their own, especially at home, they will be playing meaningful football in December. The Packers are in flux mode and the Vikings will be feeling the heat with Kirk Cousins at QB.
Matt Stafford’s time – This one is a no-brainer. Of course, the Lions need Stafford to play well, but they also need him to make better decisions. Stafford has a lot more weapons this season at his disposal. In fact, he may have the most he has ever had. It is time for Stafford to prove he can win big games, including in the postseason.
A tough O-Line – This may be the biggest factor for the Lions in 2019. Very quietly, Detroit is building a great offensive line. Last season, running back Kerryon Johnson was well on his way to 1,000 yards before he was injured. The Lions protected Stafford much better than in years past and vastly improved the run game as well. The trio of Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Graham Glasgow is just starting to gel.
Overlooked – Don’t let the underdog role fool you. When fans and experts expect you to lose 13 of 16 games, it is great fuel.
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