Throughout the month of July, the Last Word on Pro Football department will be taking a look at the three most recognizable faces of each NFL team. For this series, we’ll be looking only at active players.
The Detroit Lions are just weeks away from the start of training camp. Now is a good time to take a look at which players are the faces of the 2019 Detroit Lions. This distinction takes into account players whose success on the field will have a large impact, as well as players who stand out because of personality or other factors.
2019 Detroit Lions: The Faces of the Franchise
It’s no surprise that Matthew Stafford is a face of the franchise for the Lions. He’s been the starter for the team since being the first overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft. He’s had some up and down years but overall is a good leader for the team. The 2011 season was perhaps his best year statistically. It was the season following a year shortened by injury. He threw 41 touchdowns with 16 interceptions and 5,038 yards. In recognition of his stellar performance that year, Stafford was named the AP Comeback Player of the Year.
Stafford has his work cut out for him this year. It’s his 11th year in the league, but he’s only played in three playoff games in that span with no wins. This will be the second season with Matt Patricia as the head coach and they’ll be pushing for a better finish than 6-10. Stafford finished the 2018 season with 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and 3,777 yards. Remarkably, four of those 11 interceptions came on the Lions season opener in 2018. It’s up to Stafford to try and lead the Lions out of mediocrity in 2019.
Another face of the franchise for the Lions is Darius Slay. The 6’0″ 190-pound cornerback out of Mississippi State is entering his seventh year in the league, all with Detroit. Slay has been consistent for the Lions during his tenure but the past two seasons have been somewhat of a breakout for the defensive back. He’s made the Pro Bowl in 2017 and 2018 and was also First-Team All-Pro in 2017. The 2017 season was Slay’s best statistically, as he had eight interceptions with 26 passes defended and one fumble recovery. He was tied for the most interceptions in the NFL that year.
Slay was disappointed this week when the Madden 2020 ratings came out. He’s had a dominant run the past two seasons but Madden placed him as the ninth overall cornerback. Madden is just a game, but players take their ratings seriously. If anything, Slay’s 89 rating will motivate him to have a third Pro Bowl-caliber season in a row.
The final face of the franchise for the 2019 Lions is Kenny Golladay. The 6’4″ 214-pound wide receiver out of Northern Illinois is entering his third season in the NFL. Golladay was Detroit’s leading receiver in the 2018 season. He recorded 70 receptions for 1,063 yards with five touchdowns. Golladay also has the impressive ability to stretch the field. In his two seasons in the league, Golladay average yards per catch is 15.7.
Golladay is a big target for Stafford and he has the ability to make big plays. The 2019 season will be a good one for Golladay to cement himself as a face of the Lions franchise. He hasn’t played a full 16 game season yet. In 2017, he played in 11 games and missed one game in 2018. This year could be an even bigger year for the young pass-catcher as he continues to gain experience and chemistry with Stafford.
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