3 players who must take the next step for the Lions in 2019
Are the Detroit Lions ever going to get over the hump and make it deep into the playoffs? That’s something that Matt Patricia and the other coaches are trying to figure out.
In Patricia’s first season as the head coach in 2018, the team went 6-10 and were last place in the NFC North. The former New England Patriots defensive coordinator found out just how tough the NFC North really is.
The Lions have found a playoff win to be very elusive as if they’re trying to tackle Barry Sanders himself. To put things into perspective, Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1991 season—when Sanders graced the number 20 jersey.
That season, Erik Kramer led the team with 1,635 passing yards en route to a 12-4 record. Although, Rodney Peete also started in eight games, going 6-2 in those contests. Could you imagine a quarterback in today’s NFL leading the team with 1,635 yards and making the postseason?
Today’s NFL is completely different, but the results are the same with the Lions failing to overcome their playoff woes. Although, this year’s team is motivated to end their playoff drought. For that to happen, they’ll need a few guys to take the next step in their careers.
3. Romeo Okwara
With Patricia’s arrival, the Lions switched to a base 3-4 defense. Even though, the defensive guru mixes in blends of the 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes.
Nonetheless, Romeo Okwara was vital to Detroit being able to make the switch seamlessly. Despite the team going 6-10, the defense was ranked 10th in total defense. Okwara was a perfect fit in the 3-4, racking up 7.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss, and one forced fumble.
The Lions defensive end’s 7.5 sacks led the team and helped the defense perform at a decent level.
This offseason, the Lions added Trey Flowers from the Patriots. Flowers is one of the up and coming pass rushers in the NFL, but Okwara has to hold his own on the opposite side. If Detroit wants to end their playoff skid, Okwara is going to have to take another step forward in 2019.
2. Kenny Golladay
In 2018, we got to witness the emergence of Kenny Golladay in the Lions offense. This was especially true after Detroit traded Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles before the trade deadline.
After Tate’s departure in Week 8, Golladay averaged five receptions for 73 yards. Touchdowns were hard to come by though with the young wideout catching just five all season. Nonetheless, Golladay flashed his potential as the primary receiver in the offense.
Golladay, along with Marvin Jones, is going to have to perform at a high level for the offense to grind on all cylinders. Matthew Stafford is capable of leading an offense, but he’ll need his weapons to help him make plays to win games.
1. Kerryon Johnson
It seems like an eternity since the Lions have featured a 1,000-yard rusher in their offense. To be exact, it has been a whopping six years since Detroit has seen someone rush for 1,000 yards when Reggie Bush did in 2013.
Last season though, a rookie by the name of Kerryon Johnson showed he could be the future workhorse for the franchise. In 2018, Johnson had 641 yards on 118 carries and three touchdowns. The rookie rusher only had seven starts and ended the season with a knee injury.
The injury doesn’t seem to be anything serious and the Lions running back is on track to start in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals. Besides, Patricia knows how important it’s going to be to establish a running game from the beginning of the season.
Therefore, Johnson has to be prepared to handle the majority of the duties in the Lions rushing attack. If not, another disappointing season could be coming for Lions fans.