Every week, we take some of your questions for a Detroit Lions Mailbag – usually running Saturdays. To ask a question for a future Mailbag, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter or email me at email@example.com.
Now, on to your questions.
Which new position coach will have the biggest impact on their respective group? #LionsMailbag— Dave Griffus (@davegriffus) May 18, 2018
Assuming we’ll take Matt Patricia out of this because he’s the head coach and look specifically at individual position coaches, the answer is offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. He’s one of the few changes to Detroit’s offensive coaching staff. He’s trying to fix a unit that has a bunch of talent and potential, but a combination of injuries and other issues led to Matthew Stafford being sacked 84 times the past two seasons and the Lions’ run game becoming the worst in the NFL.
Davidson was brought in to essentially fix all of that. He’s also being tasked with improving a group that general manager Bob Quinn has invested most of his resources over the past three offseasons – from drafting left tackle Taylor Decker and guard/center Graham Glasgow in 2016, signing right tackle Rick Wagner and right guard T.J. Lang to massive contracts last offseason and taking center/guard Frank Ragnow in the first round last month. That’s a lot of capital to ensure a position group is strong. So far, it hasn’t panned out and if the Lions are going to have success in 2018 (and beyond), they need Davidson (and his assistant, 11-year NFL vet Hank Fraley) to strengthen that unit.
#LionsMailbag Will the Lions sign any DT?— Cristofer M. Leavitt (@cleavitt32) May 18, 2018
Cristofer, at some point it would seem like it. It’s somewhat surprising the Lions haven’t made that move yet. Detroit didn’t do much to improve its defensive line during the draft – although Da’Shawn Hand has a chance to be pretty good -- and counting on Sylvester Williams to be a big difference-maker on his one-year deal is a risky move. There are some sensible options out there, too. Alan Branch and Ricky Jean-Francois understand Matt Patricia’s defensive system and could be good veteran plug-ins. Johnathan Hankins is a high-level talent, but this is the second straight year he’s gone deep into the offseason without a team. His cost might be too high for his production. Those are the three names most commonly linked to the Lions. That’s a long answer for, yeah, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lions add another defensive lineman at some point, and it’ll be something to watch over the next two months heading into training camp.
Luke from Devizes, United Kingdom asks by email: So if [the Lions] went 9-7 last year, have a Quinn-picked offensive line, one of the deepest receiving groups in the NFL and a Patricia-led defence, are [the Lions] not playoff bound? Or have I read too much hype?
Luke, greetings from across the pond. Absolutely love your country. One of my favorites. Hope you’re enjoying the excitement of the Royal Wedding (it’s getting massive coverage over here, too). Now, on to your question. The Lions are in a tough spot this year. The schedule is a bit daunting with a tough four-game stretch after the season opener on Monday Night Football against the Jets and then a tough finishing slate with the Rams, Vikings and Green Bay three of the final five games on the season.
Then there’s the NFC North, which could be one of the two toughest divisions in the league this year. Minnesota might have the league’s best defense. Green Bay might have the league’s best quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. And Chicago has improved through free agency and the draft and should be more competitive than last year. Detroit has made some moves, too, and have the potential to be an incredibly versatile team. But like most years, the Lions will need a lot to go right – both from a health perspective and winning those 50-50 type games – to be a playoff team. Like the past couple of years, I have the Lions in the 9-7/8-8 range – good enough to be competitive throughout the season but needing some breaks and critical victories against certain teams to make the playoffs.