After seeing Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders captivate fans with his performances for 10 seasons (1989-98) and the franchise winning a conference championship in 1993, nothing great has been accomplished by the Detroit Lions. Since the division’s name change from NFC Central to NFC North in 2002, the Lions have not delivered a conference title to Ford Field.
This season stands as a long shot – especially when dealing with Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Mitchell Trubisky – however, Detroit has a chance to not only make the playoffs but also generate a Super Bowl push for the first time since the AFL/NFL merger took place in 1970.
Offensively, the Lions have what it needs to make a run. As Matthew Stafford enters his 10th season at quarterback, he understands what it takes to survive in this league.
With placing four talented running backs – including Kerryon Johnson – around him and noting the wide receiving unit of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr, Detroit has the offense under Jim Bob Cooter that can frustrate a lot of teams. Defense, on the other hand, is an area where new head coach Matt Patricia and his staff must locate players that possess an alpha male mindset.
Good thing for Detroit is it carries a trio of University of Alabama standouts on the roster, and each one under Nick Saban knew how to win games. Despite a recruiting mishap bouncing him from Tuscaloosa (Ala.) after the 2015 season, Bo Davis is back in the saddle as the Lions’ defensive line coach.
At Alabama, he mentored players like Terrence Cody, Marcell Dareus, Bobby Greenwood, Brandon Deaderick, Lorenzo Washington, A’Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen and Jarran Reed into being All-Americans, national champions and NFL Draft picks.
Following his internship with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Davis has been reunited with Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand in Detroit. Robinson, 6-foot-4 and 322 pounds, is coming off a productive second year in the league with 53 tackles, four tackles for loss, six pass breakups, one interception, two blocked kicks, one forced fumble and a touchdown.
He did not have the greatest career with the Crimson Tide; nevertheless, Hand turned in 71 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and seven quarterback hurries. Even at being nearly 300 pounds, he recorded a time of 4.83 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Lions finished 18th in run defense in 2017, allowing 1800 yards (112.5 ypg) and 18 rushing touchdowns. While its offense needs to generate more balance, Detroit’s chances of getting 10-plus wins are high if the duo of Robinson and Hand can stuff the opposition’s rushing attack.
Much has been made in OTA’s on Patricia wanting more energy, but one can expect the tone to start on defense with better discipline, attention to details and creating turnovers.
Davis, Robinson and Hand are pushing for greatness in 2018.