DETROIT LIONS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
Major improvement is needed from a mistake-prone unit that ranked third in total yards and second in passing yards, but was below average in points scored (17th) and rushing yards (23rd). A big key will be a bounce-back campaign from former first-round QB Matthew Stafford, who was extremely inconsistent (17-16 TD-interception ratio) in his fourth season under center.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
OT — If starting ORT Gosder Cherilus leaves via free agency, that leaves aging OLT Jeff Backus and 2012 first-rounder Riley Reiff as the team’s only legitimate tackles. Backus, who has a year left on his contract, could be contemplating retirement. Cherilus has a knack for drawing flags.
RB — A change-of-pace back could come in very handy for a RB corps with a host of issues. Concussion problems might have put a halt to Jahvid Best’s career, fumble-prone Joique Bell is a restricted free agent and Kevin Smith, who looked decent spelling Best when he wasn’t hurting, is an unrestricted free agent.
WR — Aside from superstar Calvin Johnson setting a new single-season record for receiving yards, this position was a mess. As good as Johnson was, he registered only five TD catches. In his second season, Titus Young developed into a major head case who burned every bridge imaginable. Second-round rookie Ryan Broyles showed some promise before tearing his ACL, and veteran Nate Burleson also suffered a season-ending injury.
Across-the-board repairs are necessary for a unit that ranked above average in total yards (13th), passing yards (14th) and rushing yards (16th) allowed but was near the bottom (27th) in points allowed. The Lions’ front four remains a strength, especially on the inside with DTs Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, but more quality manpower in the back seven is a must.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
DE — Starting DLE Cliff Avril, a franchise player in 2012, could be one of the more highly sought after defenders in this year’s free-agent market. Fellow 2012 starter Kyle Vanden Bosch was released by the team in February. Reserve Willie Young is a restricted free agent.
CB — Even after drafting three cornerbacks last season, the position remains a major area of need. Chris Houston, who had a very solid season for the most part, and Jacob Lacey, who started slow but came on in the slot, are both free agents. After registering only 11 interceptions in 2012 (minus-16 turnover differential), the Lions could really use another play-making corner.
S — Except for starting FS Louis Delmas, the pickings are disturbingly slim at safety, and Delmas is a free agent who can attract some attention on the open market despite major durability issues (13 missed games the last two seasons). Starting SS Amari Spievey has good athleticism, but his concussion issues can’t help but be cause for concern.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (23): OT-OG Riley Reiff / Iowa (GP/GS: 16/8)
Skinny: Future starter. Played well in beefed-up six-O-line packages.
2nd round (54): WR Ryan Broyles / Oklahoma (GP/GS: 10/3)
Skinny: Displayed some flashes before tearing ACL.
3rd round (85): CB Bill Bentley / Louisiana-Lafayette (GP/GS: 4/3)
Skinny: Had his moments, but also had problems staying healthy.
4th round (125): DE Ronnell Lewis / Oklahoma (GP/GS: 8/0)
Skinny: Hard hitter with good energy. Has potential as pass rusher.
5th round (138): OLB Tahir Whitehead / Temple (GP/GS: 14/0)
Skinny: Work in progress who made presence felt on special teams.
5th round (148): CB Chris Greenwood / Albion (Mich.) (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Was on PUP list entire season (abdominal surgery).
6th round (196): CB Jonte Green / New Mexico State (GP/GS: 15/5)
Skinny: Good value pick showed he could make contribution.
7th round (223): LB Travis Lewis / Oklahoma (GP/GS: 13/0)
Skinny: Played sparingly. Made biggest impact on special teams.
SUMMARY: More emphasis on defense might have helped, but both Reiff and Broyles could pay off big-time down road.
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