The goal for the Detroit Lions in 2009 is simple – win a game.
Last year, the Lions became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16; dating back to 2007, Detroit has not won a regular-season contest since a 25-20 Week 16 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The team became a regular feature when it came time to bet on NFL football – always bet on the Lions to lose, always win your bet.
As expected, massive changes were made in Detroit follow last year’s debacle. The team dropped 14 players from the 2008 roster. Head coach Rod Marinelli was fired, replaced with former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Former University of Georgia standout QB Matthew Stafford was taken first overall in the 2009 Draft, and a slew of new faces were brought in on the defensive side of the football. Will these changes alter Detroit’s fortunes for this season? Let’s take a look…
Key Departures: FS Gerald Alexander, CB Leigh Bodden, TE Dan Campbell, DT Shaun Cody, CB Travis Fisher, WR Mike Furrey, TE Michael Gaines, QB Jon Kitna, LB Alex Lewis, OG Edwin Mulitalo, FB Moran Norris, QB Dan Orlovsky, TE John Owens, S Dwight Smith
Key Acquisitions: Free Agents – CB Phillip Buchanon, WR Ronald Curry, LB Larry Foote, TE Will Heller, CB Anthony Henry, DT Grady Jackson, OL Jon Jansen, WR Bryant Johnson, CB Eric King, OL Daniel Loper, RB Maurice Morris, WR-RS Dennis Northcutt, LB Julian Peterson, FB Terrelle Smith, LB Cody Spencer. Draft – QB Matthew Stafford (1st), TE Brandon Pettigrew (1st).
Offensively, the Lions have a lot of good young talent at key positions – they’re raw, but have extremely bright futures. Stafford will battle with Daunte Culpepper for the No. 1 QB gig, but the RB position (second-year man Kevin Smith) and No. 1 WR job (Calvin “Megatron” Johnson) are set in stone. Veteran WRs Bryant Johnson and Ronald Curry were brought in to help with the passing game, while former Seattle Seahawks RB Maurice Morris will spell off Smith in the backfield.
Defensively, the Lions should be an interesting team to watch. On paper, it’s a decent-looking squad that should pique sports book betting interests. Leading tackler Paris Lenon went to New England, but quality replaces him at linebacker in Pro Bowler Julian Peterson and Larry Foote, who brings a winning pedigree from his time in Pittsburgh. Cornerbacks Philip Buchanon and Anthony Henry also bring a wealth of veteran experience, helping out a secondary that was routinely torched last season. New defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham needs to inspire the veterans – something that didn’t happen in a pathetic 27-10 exhibition loss to Cleveland – if the Lions want to avoid a second straight season of embarrassment.
Notable 2009 Games: Thanks in large part to last year’s winless season, the Lions are bereft of primetime games in 2009. The biggest date on the calendar is the annual Thanksgiving Day affair against the Green Bay Packers (Thursday, November 26th), but the Lions should get a lot of National coverage through the first six weeks as they try to snap their losing streak. But it won’t be easy – those first six games are against the Saints, Vikings, Redskins, Bears, Steelers and Packers respectively.
2009 Outlook: The silver lining from last year’s 0-16 mark is that anything – even just one win – is an improvement. That gives you an idea of what expectations are like; if the Lions can get to six wins, it’ll be a successful season no doubt. Our guess is that 5-11 is a realistic total, but the team does have enough raw talent to win seven games. Probably won’t happen…but the talent is there.