Instead of taking a step forward in year two under head coach Matt Patricia, the Detroit Lions regressed in a major way. After starting the season with a 2-0-1 record, the team went 1-12 over its next 13 games and finished with the third-worst record in the National Football League.
Although longtime quarterback Matthew Stafford was limited to just eight games on the year, Detroit’s offense performed better than expected. Finishing 18th in the league in scoring and 17th in yards gained, first-year offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell debuted in a respectable fashion. On the defensive side, though, things were a trainwreck.
The Lions finished 26th in points allowed and surrendered the second-most yardage in the NFL in 2019. Paul Pasqualoni will not return to the role in 2020, and Cory Undlin will take his place.
Heading into the offseason, here are a trio of moves Detroit must make in order to improve next year.
3. Insurance policy for Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford is a good quarterback. He’s as tough as nails, possesses one of the best arms in the game and hasn’t always had the best supporting cast around him (running game and defense, in particular).
Although all of that is true, he’s never won a playoff game and is entering his age-32 season. That’s certainly not old by quarterback standards but for a guy that seems to always be battling some type of injury, it’s a little worrisome.
The Lions would be smart to think about upgrading at the backup quarterback spot. The team didn’t win another game once Stafford went down last season and unless they sign a proven veteran or draft a young signal-caller with promise, that lack of hope won’t change.
It’s also possible (but iffy in terms of cap ramifications) for Detroit to get out of Stafford’s deal after next season. Having someone solid behind him would make that decision more important, but could pay off down the road.
2. Bolster the secondary
Darius Slay has built a reputation as a reliable corner, but last season he wasn’t quite what he used to be. He’s also close to the proverbial age-30 cliff at which many players see their production dip.
Rashaan Melvin may or may not be returning to the Lions in 2020, so it’ll be important for the Lions to ensure their secondary remains either intact or at least flush with premium talent. Whether it’s with their top draft pick or via the free agent market, improving the unit is paramount.
1. Improve the pass rush
Trey Flowers is a good player. With that said, it takes a village in order to effectively put consistent pressure on a quarterback. If the Lions want to be able to stop opposing teams from running up the score next season, they’ll need to get some help on the front line of the defense.
The team finished tied for the second-lowest sack total in 2019. That’s got to rise to at least the middle of the pack before any major ripple effects take place.