The Detroit Lions will finally be able to hit someone from another team this Saturday, as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first preseason game. The first team will probably not see much action, which will give those other players looking to make the team an opportunity to show what they can do in a game situation. As a result, I am not too concerned about the outcome of the game, but I will be looking for a few things as the season quickly approaches.
The first is the development of Matthew Stafford. He must make strides in his second year and continue to grow in each phase of the game. He has the arm strength and physical tools to make any throw, but he needs to cut down on the mental mistakes and trying to force the ball in to his receivers. I want to see him go through his progressions and if nothing is there, dump it down or throw it away. He began to show last year how he will eventually be a great leader for this franchise and that he has what it takes to be an elite quarterback in this league. Not many guys in the league at the quarterback position would have done what he did against the Browns, especially at that point in the season. To refresh everyone’s memory, the Lions were 1-8 and going in for the winning touchdown and their second win of the season, when Stafford got planted and injured his shoulder. He walked off the field holding his shoulder and was in obvious pain on the sideline. A timeout was called, in which Stafford came back on the field for the next play and threw the winning touchdown to TE Brandon Pettigrew. It was a great moment during a terrible season and it gave his teammates and fans a glimpse as to what Matthew Stafford is made of. If he continues to get better and build upon his rookie season, I have no doubt that he will lead the Lions to many victories in the future.
The second thing I will be looking for is someone to step up and become a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. Every good team in the NFL has someone on the defensive side of the ball that can single handedly change a game or dominate it. The Lions have not had a player like this in a really long time (Chris Spielman?) and for them to take the next step and contend for a division title, they will need to have one. Louis Delmas looks like he has the ability to become this guy on defense. He made several big plays last year and will need to continue to do so if the Lions are to be successful this year. In his rookie season last year, Delmas had 94 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions and one touchdown, which he took back 101 yards on an interception. Those type of plays can be the difference in a game and I look for him to make many more of these throughout his career with the Lions. The only thing he must cut down on is always trying to make the big hit. Once he learns how to break down and be more under control, more big plays will follow and teams will have to game plan to stay away from him. A few other potential stars on defense include newly signed DT Ndamukong Suh, LB DeAndre Levy and CB Chris Houston. All 4 of these guys are very young and if they play up to their potential, the Lions could have a playmaker at each level of the defense for years to come.
I know it is still early, but these are 2 ideas that I think the Lions can build on for the future. They have many young and skilled players that will only get better with time. The Lions success will definitely hinge on the development of the players mentioned above and I am excited to see if they can live up to the high expectations that have been set for them by Lions fans all over the world!
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Written by David Lesmeister