Free agency has come and gone.  The NFL Draft is over.  Rookie mini-camps will be starting up soon.  Optimism is high around the Detroit Lions facility and exceptionally high throughout the fan base.  They are talking about playoffs, but is that good enough? Is just making the playoffs a sign of improvement?  How about winning a playoff game?  In the Super Bowl era, the Detroit Lions sport a 1-12 playoff record.  The lone win coming against Dallas after the 1991 season.  So where does this optimism come from?

As fellow writer, Mitchell Sexton wrote, Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Lions favored in only 4 games.  That does not shout playoffs.  It doesn’t mean the Lions won’t make it, either.  So, let’s look at the rosters from that playoff winning season compared to this years team.

1991 DETROIT LIONS STARTERS                2018 DETROIT LIONS STARTERS projected*

OFFENSE                                                      OFFENSE

QB- Rodney Peete/Erik Kramer                                     QB- Matthew Stafford

RB- Barry Sanders                                                            RB- LeGarrette Blount/Kerryon Johnson

WR- Robert Clark                                                            WR- Golden Tate

WR- Mike Farr                                                                 WR- Marvin Jones

WR- Willie Green                                                             WR- Kenny Golladay

WR- Brett Perriman                                                        TE- Luke Wilson

LT- Lomas Brown                                                           LT- Taylor Decker

LG- Eric Andolsek                                                           LG- Graham Glasgow

C- Kevin Glover                                                               C- Frank Ragnow(r)

RG- Mike Utley                                                               RG- TJ Lang

RT- Eric Sanders                                                             RT- Ricky Wagner

DEFENSE                                                                        DEFENSE

LE- Marc Spindler                                                          LE- Anthony Zettel

NT- Jerry Ball                                                                  DT- A’Shawn Robinson

RE- Dan Owens                                                              DT- Jeremiah Ledbetter

LOLB- George Jamison                                                 RE- Ziggy Ansah

LILB- Chris Spielman                                                    OLB- Devon Kennard

RILB- Dennis Gibson                                                     MLB- Jarrad Davis

ROLB- Tracy Hayworth                                                OLB- Christian Jones

LCB- Ray Crockett                                                         LCB- Darius Slay

RCB- Mel Jenkins                                                          RCB- Quandre Diggs

SS- William White                                                         SS- Tavon Wilson

FS- Bennie Blades                                                         FS- Glover Quinn

SPECIAL TEAMS                                                         SPECIAL TEAMS

K- Eddie Murray                                                           K- Matt Prater

P- Jim Arnold                                                               P- Sam Martin

KR- Mel Gray                                                                KR- Jamal Agnew

PR- Mel Gray                                                                PR- Jamal Agnew


At first glance, you see the glaring difference in the running game.  Sanders ran for over 1500 yards in 1991.  If the duo of Blount/Johnson can approach that, then that’s a strong start.

Stafford is a massive upgrade at QB regardless if talking about Peete or Kramer, who replaced an injured Peete and won the Divisional Playoff game in 1991.  Give Stafford that kind of rushing attack and he’d be even more dangerous.  Also, give Stafford time, he was sacked 47 times in 2017.  In 1991, the QB was sacked only 25 times.  That’s the kind of blocking Stafford and this offense could benefit from.

Defensively, the ’91 team sacked the QB just thirty times but they ranked 11th in total defense.  The current defense is coming into the season following a year they had 35 sacks and ranked 21st.

The way they approached free agency and the draft, it’s easy to see what their plan is.  Protect Stafford, run the football to provide offensive balance and improve the defense.  I’m still worried about what this defense can do, but the offense will be improved.  The question is not only did they do enough to make the playoffs but did they do enough to win in the playoffs and end the drought?

In the NFC, barring any catastrophic injury, you have to think the Eagles, Vikings, Saints, and Rams are locks to get in. That leaves two more playoff spots, and it’s a crowded field.  The Lions, Packers, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, 49ers and Cowboys will all be fighting for those spots.  Now, some of these teams could take a step back (the Cowboys, Panthers, and Seahawks seemly the likely candidates) but every year there are surprise teams that take a leap up.  Regardless, the Lions have a tough job ahead, and expectations should be tempered.  If I had to make a prediction, I’d say they were a year away from really making some noise.  However, this is the NFL and anything can happen. One thing is definite, the Lions will be fun to watch.





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Lawrence Mardeusz Jr

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