Detroit Lions 2016 Off-Season: Top 3 Needs

Detroit entered the 2015 season with a boat load of hype. The defense was ranked second in total defense in 2014, had Golden Tate and DeAndre Levy were coming off career years, and the team was one or two plays away from making it into the division round. The Lions then started the 2015 season 1-7 and proceeded to fire a decent chuck of their staff. They positioned Jim Bob Cooter at offensive coordinator and ended the season on a 6-2 run, putting them at 7-9 and third in the NFC North. The Detroit Lions off-season needs will be handled by new general manager Bob Quinn. Quinn will look to make the most of his training while in New England with total command of Detroit’s 16th pick in this year’s draft.

2015 featured Matthew Stafford putting the best TD/INT ratio in the league during the second half of the season with a 19/2 mark. Ezekiel Ansah put together a Pro Bowl season with 14.5 sacks, and the establishment of Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs formed a formidable combo in the secondary. With at least $30 million in cap room, Detroit has an open canvas and a lot of room to play with.

Detroit Lions 2016 Off-Season: Top 3 Needs

Offensive Line

The glue that holds Detroit together here is the level of protection provided to Stafford. In the first half of the season, Detroit led the league in combined sacks, hits, and quarterback hurries allowed according to Tim Twentyman [http://www.detroitlions.com/news/lions-insider/article-1/STATS-PACK-Stafford-under-pressure/e500523e-09cc-46f5-b7c9-329fa73f150c]. As a result, Stafford had one of the worst starts in his NFL career, being the worst graded quarterback by Pro Football Focus [https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2015/12/04/pro-3-reasons-for-optimism-detroit-lions/]. The offensive blocking scheme was revamped under Jim Bob Cooter and the entire offense saw an improvement. The offensive scored above it’s projected points five times in the second half. [http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/det/2015.htm]

It is obvious that the blockers hold the key to success. The first step to bringing a consistent and successful line will be re-signing Manny Ramirez. He provides proven quality that adds to Detroit’s depth. The line can be instantly solidified through free agency this year. You can look for Detroit to target a free agency group of young tested tackles. Keep an eye on Cordy Glenn (BUF), Mitchell Schwartz (CLE), and Ryan Schraeder (ATL). Detroit may also look to tap lineman in the draft Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame and Michigan State standout Jack Conklin.

Wide Receiver

Last year, wide receiver seemed to be the last concern of Detroit. But with the likely retirement of Calvin Johnson, the Lions are out a WR1 that received 25% of Stafford’s targets last year. Detroit has plenty of offensive weapons around that can step up to fill the role. Golden Tate had a stat line of 99 receptions, 1,331 yards, and 4 touchdowns two years ago during an injury-ridden year for Johnson. Detroit also has their new franchise record holder for most receptions at running back on their roster in Theo Riddick. Detroit can feel comfortable using Tate and Riddick as top receiving options in a West Coast style offensive, but will still have to have someone to throw to past five yards. Detroit would be best suited in signing a receiver like Anquan Boldin, Rishard Matthews, or Travis Benjamin to provide for their need. The wide receiver draft class also features many down the field specialists, such as Michael Thomas (Ohio State), Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss), and Josh Doctson (TCU) that would suit the Lions well.

Cornerback

Detroit has had great success recently in the secondary. The problem is, they don’t have any experienced depth at corner. Darius Slay is now the most senior member of the bunch, and he’s only 25. While Slay is considered to be the future, along with positive upside for Alex Henry and Nevin Lawson, they aren’t entirely proven. Detroit has the money to go after some of the top defensive back free agents this offseason. If Sean Smith or Josh Norman aren’t franchise tagged by their respective franchises, look for Detroit to offer them top dollar. Detroit also will look for a veteran to replace the retired Rashean Mathis. Cortland Finnegan and Tracy Porter are names that will pop up in the front office conversations for Detroit.

What is Your Favorite Football Movie of All Time? in Last Word on Sports Polls on LockerDome