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2010 Team Report: Detroit Lions


Starter: Matthew Stafford
Backup(s): Shaun Hill, Drew Stanton

Starting QB: Matt Stafford survived a rough rookie season. He spent many downs running for his life and looking up from the turf when the play was over. He was constantly frustrated by receivers who dropped passes and ran inconsistent routes. He missed a few games early in the season, and an injury to his non-throwing shoulder ended his season in Week 13. At times, he looked poised and in control of his offense. At others, he was frustrated and had a look of desperation. Of course, that's pretty typical for a rookie QB. He's been rehabbing his injuries this offseason, but is still not 100 percent as he enters the summer OTAs. However, he should be fully recovered by training camp. This season, Stafford should be better prepared for the challenges ahead, and will benefit from an upgraded receiving corps, running game and offensive line. He is a backup quality fantasy QB with solid upside.

Backup QB: The Lions acquired former 49ers QB Shaun Hill in a trade shortly before the draft. Although he began the season as San Francisco's starter, he struggled and was eventually benched by Week 7 and never saw the field again. Despite a lackluster career, he enters the season as most experienced QB on the roster. He will be ready to step in if Stafford is not physically ready to go. Drew Stanton returns to the Lions as the No. 3 QB this season. He was unable to secure the starting job from Daunte Culpepper after Stafford went down to injury and has been a disappointment since the Lions drafted him two seasons ago. He will have a chance to compete with Hill for the No. 2 slot during training camp, but Stanton will most likely spend most of the season as the emergency QB.

Running Backs

Starter: Jahvid Best (R), Kevin Smith
Backup(s): Maurice Morris, Aaron Brown, DeDe Dorsey
Fullback(s): Jerome Felton

Starting RB: Kevin Smith struggled last season behind a weak offensive line and poor overall offensive play. He finished the season on IR after blowing out his knee in December with over 1,100 yards and five TDs. He has had surgery this offseason, and his recovery will be long and painful. He will most likely begin training camp on the PUP list. To boost their running game, the Lions drafted standout RB Jahvid Best with the No. 30 overall pick. Given his talents and the injuries to Smith, you can expect Best to begin the season as the starting RB. He is an explosive player with great potential in the Detroit offense, but his multiple concussions in college are a serious concern. The Lions still have a weak offensive line, and running the ball will be difficult for anyone. Best will take his fair share of shots, and another concussion could put his career in jeopardy. He's a high-risk, high-reward type of player.

Backup RBs: Maurice Morris took over the primary running back responsibilities when Kevin Smith went down. He had a solid game against Arizona in Week 15, but in general, his performance was pedestrian at best. Had he shown real starter-quality potential, the Lions would not have drafted Jahvid Best. It would not be a shock if Morris was not on the roster when the season begins. Aaron Brown had an impressive rookie season, given the fact that he had very limited opportunities. He's an excellent change-of-pace back for the Lions, and he should see an increased role in the Detroit offense once the RB roster settles down. DeDe Dorsey has bounced around to several teams in his short NFL career, and his place on the Detroit roster will probably end once Smith is back to full strength.

Fullback: Jerome Felton's biggest contributions to the Lions is in the short passing game. He catches one or two passes a game and also usually steals a carry or two. He can break a few short gains into longer ones, but ultimately his top end is two or three fantasy points a game. It's also important to note that he is not the main goal line option for the Lions and has never scored a TD in two seasons.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson
Backups: Bryant Johnson, Derrick Williams, Dennis Northcutt, Brian Clark, Tim Toone, Adam Jennings, Eric Fowler

Starting WRs: The Lions struggled on offense last season, and Calvin Johnson's stats showed it. Many felt Megatron was a lock for a top-5 fantasy finish. However, even before he missed a few games with a knee injury, Johnson wasn't on pace to have that type of campaign. Despite almost 140 passes thrown his way, Johnson finished the season with only 67 receptions for less than 1,000 yards. With Stafford entering his second season, those stats should improve this season. Nate Burleson was signed in the offseason from Seattle and will step into the No. 2 slot. He has always been a possession type of receiver, and his steady hands will do wonders for Stafford's confidence and keeping the offense on the field longer.

Backup WRs: Burleson's presence moves former 1st-round pick Bryant Johnson down to the No. 3 WR slot. However, Tony Scheffler, with his soft hands, was acquired to fill that role which may mean Johnson is on the way out. He had a few highlight film type receptions last season, but they were far overshadowed by his frequent dropped passes and inability to do anything while Calvin Johnson was injured. Second-year Derrick Williams had few opportunities last season, but he will have to perform better than 8.9 yards per reception if he expects to stay on the team. Dennis Northcutt is a veteran wide out who also dropped a ton of passes last season. He too could be gone by the start of the season. Of the remaining WRs, none are of any fantasy value. Expect most of them to be cut before the season starts.

Tight Ends

Starters: Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler
Backups: Will Heller, Jake Nordin, Dan Gronkowski

Brandon Pettigrew had an impressive rookie season, and despite missing the last five games of the season, he still finished as the No. 25 fantasy TE. In fact, he had five or more pass targets in six of the eleven games he played in and was often the guy that Stafford looked to when he was checking down because his receivers were covered. His playing style lends itself to taking lots of hard shots, and he eventually went down to injury last season. The Lions gave up a 7th-round pick for 4th-year TE Tony Scheffler, and he should be a big part of the offense as well. However, expect Scheffler to fill in more as a WR than a true TE, giving him more opportunities to use his receiving skills. Will Heller is a solid option if both Scheffler and Pettigrew go down, but Jake Nordin and Dan Gronkowski have minimal fantasy value.

Place Kicker

Jason Hanson, Steve Hauschka : After a dismal 2005, the Lions offense and Hanson rebounded the next two years. They finished 7th in kicker scoring in 2006 and 8th in 2007, up from 32nd in 2005. But in 2008 the Lions were all the way back down to 30th, giving Hanson the fewest scoring chances in the league. Last year wasn't much better as they finished 29th. The usually accurate Hanson also struggled, hitting only 75.0% on field goals. This was in contrast to his banner 2008 when he went 21 of 22 (95.5%), including eight from 50+ yards, and the one missed field goal and his one missed PAT were both blocked.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Derrick Williams, Aaron Brown, Jahvid Best, Nate Burleson, Maurice Morris

The Lions drafted WR Derrick Williams, presuming he would serve as their return specialist. During his senior year at Penn State he averaged 25.8 yards on kickoff returns and scored twice. As a rookie last year, he averaged 22.2 yards on 42 returns, and shared the primary kickoff returner role with RB Aaron Brown (42 returns, 22.6 avg.). During his senior year at TCU, Brown averaged 29.2 yards (5th in the NCAA) and scored once. Williams and Brown will compete fopr the job again this year, and could possibly be joined by first round draft pick RB Jahvid Best. During his senior year at California, Best averaged 26.4 yards on 32 kickoff returns. Part way through 2006, WR Nate Burleson was doing quite well on punt returns, and Seattle decided to let him handle both returner roles. In 2007 he had the most kickoff returns of any player on the Seahawks (27 returns, 21.9 avg., 1 TD). RB Maurice Morris was relegated to backup duties in 2005, after having led the Seahawks the three prior years.

Punt Returners: Derrick Williams, Dennis Northcutt, Nate Burleson, Tim Toone

WR Dennis Northcutt was one of the best punt returners in the league during his seven years with the Browns, averaging 10.6 yards per return. He scored three TDs, and had quite a few others negated by penalty. After limited use with the Jaguars in 2008, last year he handled the majority of the Lions' punts (22 returns, 8.6 avg.). Although Derrick Williams averaged 9.4 yards on punt returns in his senior, and scored three times during his college career, he struggled on punt returns last summer. As a result, he had no returns during the regular season. Nonetheless, he'll get another shot this summer. While kickoff returns are typically more lucrative in fantasy scoring, Nate Burleson's punt returns were a key factor in his fourth place finish in fantasy returns in the NFL in 2007. Injury limited him in 2008. Last year he handled two-thirds of the punts for the Seahawks (30 returns, 8.5 avg.). Rookie WR Tim Toone, the final pick of this year's draft, averaged 19.9 yards on punt returns and scored twice last year for Weber State. After a 22nd place finish in fantasy returns in 2008, the Lions improved to 11th last year as a result of strong kickoff numbers (quantity, not quality).

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Jeff Backus, LG Rob Sims, C Dominic Raiola, RG Stephen Peterman, RT Gosder Cherilus
Key Backups: G/T Jon Jansen, G Daniel Loper, G Manny Ramirez

The good news for Detroit Lions fans is the offensive line is heading in the right direction. The bad news is the group isn't quite there yet. There is a real opportunity this season though for the Lions to make some big strides and possible elevate into a top-fifteen unit if they can improve their teamwork and consistency. The cornerstones of this group are veterans Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola who are now in their tenth seasons. Backus has never missed a start while Raiola has started 124 of 128 games with Detroit. Both players are not the reason for the Lions offensive struggles as of late. Gosder Cherilus started fifteen games at right tackle and is starting to come into his own. He did pretty well in run blocking schemes but still needs some work in pass protection. Manny Ramirez was terrible last season and will be in a real dogfight to keep the starting job. He was one of the worst starting guards in the NFL and needs better agility to go with his great size. Stephen Peterman will likely take Ramirez job and start at right guard. The Lions brought Rob Sims in from Seattle this offseason and he'll start at left guard. He has 34 career starts and is an upgrade for the Lions. He could be a top-15 guard this season.. Overall, expect a better effort from the Lions offensive line in 2010 as they climb into the Top 15.

Team Defense

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE Jason Hunter, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Corey Williams
Backups: DE Cliff Avril, DE Jared DeVries, DE Turk McBride, DE Willie Young, DE Copeland Bryan, DE/DT Andre Fluellen, DT Sammie Lee Hill, DT Landon Cohen, DT Joe Cohen

Starting DL: After ranking dead last in total defense for the second consecutive year, the Lions made several moves to address the problem, the most important being the selection of DT Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Suh was considered the top player in the draft and will add a formidable presence to the middle of the Detroit defense. DT Corey Williams was acquired in an offseason trade and will add a solid interior pass rusher to the defense. Williams had back-to-back seasons with seven sacks when he played for the Packers, which was also the last time he played DT in a 4-3 defense. The Lions made an early move in free agency, signing longtime Tennessee DE Kyle Vanden Bosch to a four-year contract. Vanden Bosch is a solid two-way DE and will add veteran leadership to the young Lions' defense. Jason Hunter had a solid 2009 season and is currently penciled in at the starting DE spot opposite Vanden Bosch.

Backup DL: Sammie Lee Hill will be part of the rotation at defensive tackle and at 330 pounds, adds much needed size to the defensive line. Andre Fluellen can play anywhere on the defensive line and his versatility gives the Lions flexibility. Landon Cohen will compete for snaps at DT. Cliff Avril had a disappointing 2009 season and hopes to contend for the starting DE spot opposite Vanden Bosch. At his best, Avril is a solid pass rusher with the potential to tally double-digit sacks. Jared DeVries returns after missing all of last season with an injury. If healthy, DeVries should be a part of the rotation at DE. Rookie Willie Young was a competent pass rusher in college, but has to bulk up to compete at this level. Copeland Bryan, Joe Cohen, and Turk McBride will all compete for roster spots.


Starters: OLB Julian Peterson, MLB DeAndre Levy, WLB Zack Follett
Backups: OLB Jordon Dizon, OLB Caleb Campbell, OLB Landon Johnson, OLB Ashlee Palmer, OLB Ryan Stamper, MLB Vinny Ciurciu, MLB Cody Spencer

Starting LBs: After an impressive rookie campaign, DeAndre Levy will be the starting middle linebacker for the Lions. Although Levy played more at OLB last year, the Lions thought enough of his leadership, skills, and upside to let last year's starting MLB, Larry Foote, leave via free agency. Levy is very athletic and should be much better with a year of experience under his belt. Veteran Julian Peterson returns at one of the outside linebacker spots. Peterson is an exceptional pass rusher and is adept in coverage as well and that versatility is an important part in the Lions' blitz packages. With the departure of Ernie Sims, the WLB spot is up for grabs this season and second-year player Zack Follett is currently the leading candidate for the job. Follett, a seventh-round pick in the 2009 draft, was a special teams standout for the Lions last year and they are hoping he can bring that same level of energy to the defense.

Backup LBs: With the Lions losing two starting LBs from last season, depth at linebacker could be a problem. Jordon Dizon, who played in several of the subpackages last year, will have a chance to compete with Follett for the starting WLB job. Dizon does not have great size, but his quickness and agility help him in coverage. Dizon should be on the field in obvious passing situations. The Lions addressed their lack of experience at LB by signing veteran Landon Johnson. Johnson has several years of starting experience and acts as a safety net should the younger LBs struggle. Caleb Campbell was drafted two years ago but was unable to play until now due to his commitment to the Army. Campbell played safety in college, but has bulked up and will play WLB for the Lions. Veteran Vinny Ciurciu will compete to back up DeAndre Levy and is also an outstanding special teams player. Ashlee Palmer, Cody Spencer, and Ryan Stamper will compete for roster spots.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Chris Houston, CB Eric King, SS Marquand Manuel, FS Louis Delmas
Backups: CB Amari Spievey, CB Jonathan Wade, CB Demarcus Faggins, CB Jack Williams, CB Jonathan Hefney, CB/FS Dante Wesley, SS Daniel Bullocks, SS Marvin White, SS C.C. Brown, SS/FS Ko Simpson

Starting DBs: The Lions acquired Chris Houston from Atlanta in the offseason and he is expected to start at one of the cornerback spots for the Lions. Houston struggled at times for the Falcons, but the Lions hope a chance of scenery will help. Houston has been a starter for most of his career. There are several players in the battle to win the starting job opposite Houston. Eric King is currently listed as the starter but is probably a better fit as a nickel corner. King only played in four games last year because of injuries and struggled when he did play. Free safety Louis Delmas had a tremendous rookie season for the Lions and should only get better with experience. Delmas is the only rookie in NFL history to return a fumble for a touchdown, return an interception for a touchdown and record a safety. The strong safety position is up for grabs and the Lions are hoping someone steps up and seizes the job. Marquand Manuel is the current starter, but his hold on the job is tenuous at best.

Backup DBs: The Lions have several players who will be competing with Eric King for a starting spot at CB. Leading the charge is rookie Amari Spievey, who was selected in the third round of the draft. Spievey brings a physical dimension to the secondary that the Lions have been lacking. The Lions are hopeful that Spievey can earn the starting job as a rookie. Jonathan Wade is in the mix to start, but he will have to improve on a lackluster 2009 season. Demarcus Faggins has starting experience and will compete for a roster spot. Dante Wesley can play both CB and FS and is a terrific special teams player. Daniel Bullocks is attempting to return after missing two of the last three years with injuries. If healthy, he could compete for the starting spot at strong safety. C.C. Brown, Ko Simpson, and Marvin White are also in the mix for the job at strong safety. Jack Williams and Jonathan Hefney will battle for a spot on the roster.

Last modified: 2010-08-18 09:39:46