The Detroit Lions had a disappointing year in Matt Patricia’s first season as head coach. The Lions ended the year with a 6-10 record, finishing last in the NFC North.
There were high expectations before the 2018 season with Patricia coming from the New England Patriots. Matthew Stafford had a ton of weapons at his disposal in Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay.
By the end of the season, only Golladay was active. Tate was traded and Jones suffered an injury. As a result, Stafford had arguably his worst season since his rookie year in the NFL.
Despite all of those problems, Detroit may have found a gem in Kerryon Johnson. Since 2013, the Lions have failed to have a 1,000-yard rusher. Johnson didn’t reach that mark, but he played well even though he didn’t start until Week 4 and injuries slowed him down.
The defense also didn’t play poorly, ranking 10th in total defense in 2018. In addition, Detroit’s pass defense was a strong suit, allowing the eighth-least amount of yards in the NFL.
Coming into 2019, the Lions are hoping to bounce back in a big way in Patricia’s second season. Here are three X-factors that are crucial to a successful 2019 season.
3. Getting More Takeaways
Undoubtedly, the Lions’ pass defense was impressive throughout the 2018 season. Led by Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs, the Lions had the eighth-ranked pass defense in the NFL.
Despite having a solid defense in general, the one area the Lions struggled in was the turnover count. Over the course of the 2018 season, Detroit managed to get 14 takeaways (31st in the NFL).
That number will need to increase if the Lions want to improve in 2019. With all of the playmakers the Lions have on defense, that shouldn’t be an issue. Getting turnovers gives an offense more opportunities to score, which in turn equates to wins.
2. Getting T.J. Hockenson Involved
The Lions decided to use their first-round pick in this year’s draft on T.J. Hockenson, a tight end out of Iowa. Hockenson was the complete package as a tight end in college.
In his two seasons at Iowa, Hockenson had 73 receptions for 1,080 yards and nine touchdowns. The most impressive part about those numbers is he was playing with another talented tight end, Noah Fant, who was also taken in the first round of this year’s draft.
Matthew Stafford needs someone to rely on in crucial situations. Hockenson can be that guy with his sure hands and his ability to get open.
His ability to block in the running game also makes him an important piece to the offense. The Lions will want to get Hockenson involved early and often in 2019.
1. The Health of Kerryon Johnson
Kerryon Johnson had an impressive rookie season with the Lions in 2018. Johnson rushed for 681 yards on 118 carries and three touchdowns on the ground.
The Lions’ second-round draft pick in 2018 didn’t receive his first start until Week 4 against the Dallas Cowboys. Just two weeks later, Johnson had the best game of his career, rushing for 158 yards on 19 carries against the Miami Dolphins.
The rookie running back continued to show flashes of his potential until he suffered a knee injury that sidelined him the rest of the season. Johnson suffered the injury during Detroit’s Week 1o win over the Carolina Panthers.
The Lions are expected to rely on Johnson to carry the majority of the workload in 2019. Therefore, Johnson will need to remain healthy if the offense hopes to quickly forget its abysmal 2018 campaign.