Enemy Intel: Lions

Enemy Intel: Lions
June 23, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Over the past four months, we’ve kept a watchful eye on the teams who appear on the Redskins’ 2013 schedule. 

We’ve tracked their free agent signings. We’ve examined their drafts. Now, in our final edition of Enemy Intel, we’re taking a look at three storylines that will dominate each team’s preseason.

Up today …

Opponent/Week: Lions/3

2012 record: 4-12

Key free agent acquisitions: RB Reggie Bush, DE Jason Jones, S Glover Quin

Top draft picks: DE Ziggy Ansah, CB Darius Slay, OL Larry Warford, DE Devin Taylor 

Storyline No. 1: Can Matthew Stafford regain his form? The Lions took a huge step backward last season as their win total plummeted from 10 to four. Fair or not, no player took as much flak as quarterback Matthew Stafford. The 25-year old threw 20 touchdowns in 2012, down from 41 the previous season. His passer rating, meantime, declined from fifth best (97.2) to 22nd overall (79.8).

So what went wrong? There are many theories.

One is that Stafford got a little complacent after a successful 2011 campaign in which his personal statistics soared and the Lions went 10-6 and made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, on the other hand, pinned Stafford's struggles on inconsistent footwork and poor throwing mechanics, writing in January, “To be consistent in your success, you must be consistent with mechanics. …Right now, Stafford just isn’t.” Another belief is that he was let down a depleted supporting cast.

Whatever the issue was in 2012, there’s no debating this: Stafford will have to rebound -- and in a big way -- for the underachieving Lions to return to the postseason.

Storyline No. 2: Can Reggie Bush stabilize the Lions’ ground attack? Detroit’s running game hasn't been the same without Jahvid Best, who has been sidelined since Oct. 2011 with a concussion. Last season, in fact, the Lions 23rd in rushing with 1613 yards – 1096 behind the league-leading Redskins – and had a league-worst four rushes of 20 or more yards.

Enter Bush, who was signed as a free agent.

In his two seasons with the Dolphins, Bush missed only one game and amassed 2,072 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns while hauling in 78 passes for 588 yards and three more scores.

If Bush can stay healthy and replicate that production, his versatility could help transform the Lions’ offense. At the very least, he'll take a lot of pressure off of Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Storyline No. 3: Can head coach Jim Schwartz put the pieces of the puzzle together?

An NFL.com column in December labeled the Lions as the league’s biggest disappointments in 2012. And it would be hard to argue that – and we’re just talking about last season’s on-the-field performance, not the well-documented off-the-field issues. 

Just look at Detroit's talent-laden roster: Stafford, Johnson, Bush, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Jason Jones, Glover Quin, Louis Delmas, Stephen Tulloch, Ziggy Ansah and the list goes on.

Perhaps no coach is under as much pressure this season as Schwartz, who is 22-42 in his first four years in Motor City. The good news is he’s only one year removed a 10-win campaign and the core of that group remains. The bad news is the Ford family’s patience will only last but so long.

 Go here to see our other Enemy intel reports.