Detroit Lions: Midseason Report

Ian Campbell '21, Contributor

QB Matthew Stafford walking off the field after a failed drive (Courtesy: SideLion Report)

As the 2020 NFL season rolls on, the Lions sit in a familiar position. Eight weeks in, at 3-4, they sit at third in the NFC North. Highs for the team’s season so far include a breathtaking game winning drive led by Stafford against the Falcons following a questionable touchdown scored by Atlanta running back Todd Gurley. The lows definitely include last Sunday’s loss to the Colts, where Detroit completely failed to establish a running game, as well as failing in their own right to stop the Indianapolis rushing attack of Johnathon Taylor and Jordan Wilkins. This mediocre record, mixed in with numerous average performances, makes for another disappointing season for Matt Patricia’s squad.

The offense has been average on the season. While Stafford, in his usual brilliance, is on pace for yet another 4,000 yard season, the rest of the offense has been mediocre. Adrian Peterson has had rushing yards of a solid complementary second back, but he has double the carries of any other Lion; Peterson is also averaging a meager 3.8 yards per attempt. Rookie D’Andre Swift looked to be an exciting second round pick as he’s had some massive highs, but also some lows so far. Swift dropped the game winning touchdown in Detroit’s opening collapse against the Bears, falling 27-23. On the flip side, Swift had a terrific day Week 6 @ Jacksonville, where he ran wild for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 14 carries. Third year back Kerryon Johnson continues to disappoint, accumulating just 80 yards and a touchdown this season. He looks to be a busted draft pick by the team, as so many are for the Lions.

While Stafford has thrown for 1,900 yards on the season so far, his big targets have yet to really get going. Second year tight end T.J. Hockenson, surprisingly enough, leads the team in receptions with 29 and star receiver Kenny Golladay leads the team with 338 receiving yards. He is one of four Lions with over 250 yards. Marvin Jones has had a disappointing season by his standards, on pace for 200 yards and 3 less touchdown catches than last season. Hopefully he can get back on track with a few big games as the season progresses.

The defense has been shaky at best this season. They are 23rd in total defense, or yards allowed per game, sitting firmly in the bottom half of the league. They sit in roughly the same ranking in both rushing and passing defense separately as well, firmly cementing their below average status. They are right up with the worst in terms of points per game allowed, coming in at a whopping 29.4 PPG, good for 27th in the league. The defense has had some good performances still, the best being in their shocking 26-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3. The Lions defense, after looking stagnant and slow in the second half against Chicago and for all 60 minutes in their 42-21 loss to the Packers, turned up the heat against Kyler Murray. They allowed Murray to complete 66% of his passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns, but they also came up with 3 INTs, including the clutch pick by safety Duron Harmon that kickstarted Matt Stafford’s game winning drive. Harmon leads the team with 2 picks on the year, while fellow safety Tracy Walker leads the team in tackles. Rookie Jeff Okudah has struggled, but seems to slowly be adapting to the speed of the professional game. Considering that injuries to Justin Coleman and Desmond Trufant have forced him into a much more prominent role, the young corner has performed well. Hopefully the addition of defensive end Everson Griffen will help bolster a defensive line that is 26th in sacks per game.

In what seems to be a usual occurrence for the Lions in recent years, they have been stupendous on special teams. Matt Prater has made all 19 of his extra points, as well as going a respectable 10 of 12 from inside 50 yards. The usually reliable long distance man has only gone 2-5 from 50+ yards this season, but a minor hiccup like that on a man with such a perfect record kicking for the Lions is easily forgivable. First year punter Jack Fox leads the entire league in both gross and net punt yard average, at 53.2 and 47.6 yards respectively. These are basically the only benchmark stats on which punters are measured, so this is a great sight to see for a guy on a cheap contract. Hopefully the Lions can tie him down to a longer term deal for a low price.

Up Next: 

The Lions face off with the Vikings this coming week (1PM, Fox) before taking on Washington, Carolina, and Houston in some must win games if they want a chance at a playoff spot. They then still need to face all three divisional opponents again, as well as having tough games against the Titans and Bucs. The season outlook is bleak.