It's Friday, and that means it's time to speak with the enemy. This week our nemesis is the Detroit Lions, so naturally we went over to Pride Of Detroit, SB Nation's Lions blog, for some intel. Sean Yuille has been leading that blog for a long time, and now, he finally has a team with a future to blog about. It's been rough times in Detroit, so you can imagine they are thrilled with the recent turn of events. So what's going on with the Lions? Five questions and five answers below.
Blogging The Boys: Obviously Matthew Stafford is playing excellent ball. Give us a scouting report on his skills and the passing offense, and what are the things he's been doing well to get the Lions to 3-0 on the young season?
Pride Of Detroit: As a player, Stafford's best attribute is his arm strength. He has the ability to make throws many other quarterbacks can't by fitting the ball into a very tight window where only his receiver can get it. We saw glimpses of that during his first two seasons, but this year he has really improved on his timing, especially with Calvin Johnson.
Stafford is also turning into a great leader. He has complete control over the offense and seems to be getting more and more comfortable with making changes to plays at the line of scrimmage. In his first two years he didn't seem as assertive, but now he is the voice of the offense and there is no questioning who is leading the Lions when they have the ball.
Four to go...
BTB: All hail Megatron! What kind of routes is he scoring on? Are they throwing a lot of jump balls when they see one-on-one with Calvin? Is there anyway to stop him!?
POD: The best part about Johnson is he can score on all types of routes. Last week, one of his touchdowns did come on a jump ball where the cornerback didn't stand a chance. That's always a pretty good option for the Lions when there is single coverage, as is Johnson simply running down the field. When Stafford was mic'd up for the Chiefs game earlier this season, he said, "Calvin, you just run by everybody." That may seem like a joke, but he was serious. Johnson can score touchdowns just by outrunning the secondary and getting behind them. What makes him so great is that he has the athleticism and size to go up and get jump balls, but he can also turn a routine catch into a long touchdown if the defense is one step too slow.
The phrase "you can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him" comes to mind when thinking about Johnson. I know it is often used in a joking fashion, but with how great he has been so far this season, defenses really may only be able to contain Johnson if he and Stafford continue to click like they did during the first three weeks.
BTB: Like ours, your running game looks a little weak. What's going on there? Is it the blocking? Lack of commitment to the run game given the receiving weapons?
POD: The biggest weakness with the Lions is the running game, mainly because there isn't one. The blocking isn't great, and the play calling to get the running game going is often suspect. The Lions like to run out of the shotgun, but almost all of the runs seem to end with Jahvid Best heading into the pile in the middle of the line and gaining a yard at most. Even when under center it doesn't seem like there are usually too many running lanes for the backs, and that has more to do with the offensive line than anything. They just haven't done a good job of creating holes, and it's been so bad that fans often cringe any time a run play is called. It's necessary to keep the defense honest, but it's clear the passing game is much more effective than the running game.
BTB: Talk about the Lions front four. What does each player bring to the table?
POD: At defensive end, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril do a good job of getting after whoever has the ball. Vanden Bosch has a relentless motor and never quits on a play, and he moves around pretty well for a 32-year-old. Avril also moves around pretty well, and his best quality is his pass rushing ability. He is very quick around the edge, as Donovan McNabb found out last week when he was sacked and had the ball knocked loose by Avril.
At defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh gets all the headlines. He is an outstanding player thanks to his athleticism, power and intelligence. It's been quite a while since such a complete defensive lineman has come around, and he is already well on his way to a great career. His partner at DT, Corey Williams, deserves some love as well, though. Williams quietly had a great 2010 season, and he has been tremendous this year as well. Suh garners the attention, but Williams makes a lot of plays by clogging up the middle of the field to allow Suh and the other D-linemen to make even more plays of their own.
BTB: What's the belief level in the Lions right now? Have you seen enough of their improvements to believe this is real and it will last or is there still a lot of apprehension that things could fall apart? And how much depends on Stafford's health?
POD: Even before the season, most of the fan base was confident that the four-game winning streak we saw at the end of 2010 was a sign of things to come rather than a fluke. The past three weeks have only confirmed why hopes were so high going into the season. The Lions have the talent on both sides of the ball and the coaching to make a run at the playoffs. Now, I'd be lying if I didn't say some fans are still skeptical, as evidenced by so many claiming the same ol' Lions showed up when Detroit trailed 20-0 at halftime last week. However, the Lions' comeback quieted those screaming that things hadn't changed, as the same ol' Lions certainly would not have won that game.
At this point in the season, I think most of the fan base is very confident that the winning will continue. Some are still having a hard time believing this is actually happening and it's not a dream, but for the most part confidence is very high. Obviously this confidence will quickly go away if Stafford were to go down, but even without him last year the Lions managed to win four straight, so all hope would not be lost if he got hurt again. The chances of this season being a mere step forward rather than something to remember would greatly increase without Stafford, but if he can stay healthy this could truly be a special year for the Lions.
Thanks for the knowledge Sean, visit Pride Of Detroit for more Lions stuff.