The 43-8 slaughtering of the Denver Broncos by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XlVIII has officially brought the NFL offseason upon us. Teams will look to improve by drafting well, signing free agents, and overall developing their players’ skills, desiring Seattle’s success.
The Detroit Lions started their offseason journey to betterment when they snagged Jim Caldwell to claim their vacant head coaching position. Caldwell has assembled a nice staff around him of young minds and experience. However, the Lions still have a few steps to climb if they wish to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Here are the Lions’ offseason musts to have a successful 2014 season:
1. Right Matthew Stafford: It’s been stated plenty of times; until it happens, it’ll continue to be said -Stafford possesses incredibly ability; he needs to assemble himself. The quarterback position is like the root to a tree; if it’s off, the team will plummet. He needs to stop being in love with his arm strength and focus on developing his ability to make better reads. Teams make the playoffs with less talent because of tremendous quarterback play. Stafford’s accuracy and decision-making need to mold into a more pleasing shape. Caldwell’s success will ride heavily on Stafford’s arms; he needs to be better.
2. Move Chris Houston to the Nickel Roll: Chris Houston had a terrible 2013 season, looking like a rookie for much of it. Houston was a sloppy tackler, blew coverage at crucial times, and got beat for plenty of lengthy touchdowns. At age 29, he’s stepping out of his prime days. Houston needs to be in a friendlier roll like the nickel, allowing him to cover less talented receivers. The Lions have cornerbacks like Darius Slay, Jonte Green, and Chris Greenwood who can be developed into fine corners.
3. Discipline This Team: The penalties and childish behaviors need to die out. If Detroit continues to play undisciplined, they’ll beat themselves, slumping right back into late-season collapses. The Lions made mistakes on offense while giving up the big plays on defense, refusing to fix their discipline was the direct cause of these issues. A tone in the locker room needs to be set; players must be held accountable for actions and preparations, both on and off the field. The Lions need to be more fundamentally sound, otherwise they’ll stay glued to mediocrity.
4. Have Another Successful Draft: The Lions had a dazzling draft combined with excellent free agent signings last season. Detroit obtained many contributors from their draft, along with great play from undrafted free agents such as Joseph Fauria and LaAdrian Waddle. The Lions must hit on their picks once again, especially since they’re drafting 10th overall. The Lions need to obtain a good wide receiver, cornerback, and safety. If Martin Mayhew and his staff have finally gotten things together, Detroit’s primed to get some more solid players.
5. Get the Defensive Line to Where it Needs to Be: Detroit’s defensive line is packed with talent, but is still overrated. For the past two seasons, the Lions haven’t ranked in the top-15 for sacks. Detroit’s defensive line has Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and Ezekial Ansah – all first-round picks. Sacks aren’t everything, but to not even come close to the top-15 is pretty alarming. A pass-rush would assist the Lions’ struggling secondary. Many times, when the game was on the line, Detroit’s defensive line failed. A line with three first-round picks needs to reign supreme when it matters most.
6. Build Team Chemistry: It’s not fiction; team’s with better chemistry play better. It’s easier for a quarterback to hit a receiver with his pass when he knows his tendencies. It’s easier for a cornerback to know his roll on a play when he’s more aware of what the safety behind him is doing. The Lions’ players need to grow as a unit and appreciate playing hard next to one another. Teams with stronger builds tend to avoid late-season slumps. Caldwell wants to establish an atmosphere where players feel more comfortable to express themselves; this could very well promote their team chemistry.
Detroit can have a special 2014 season if they play their cards right. With a good draft, a successful system implemented from Caldwell and his staff, and better play from Stafford, the Lions will be a force. Change doesn’t happen over night; the Lions must work hard.