We continue our look at the specific areas in which the teams of the NFC North need to focus their efforts to improve. Today, we look at a team that has improved considerably since the franchise finally parted ways with Matt Millen.
The next step? To get back to the postseason for the first time since 1999.
RB: With the Lions not tendering a restricted free agency contract to Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris 31 years old and not getting younger, they’ll need a quality complement for Jahvid Best. Ideally, they’ll find a bruising, between-the-tackles powerhouse who’ll complement Best’s quickness and speed.
QB: Though Matthew Stafford continues to show promise when healthy, they need a solid option for when Stafford isn’t healthy. It probably makes more sense to consider upgrading the depth chart via veteran free agency, and not through the draft.
OL: Former NFL head coach Jim Mora once said that he needs some “dirtbags” on the offensive line. And that’s precisely what the Lions could use — some guys with a scrappy attitude who will do whatever needs to be done to open holes for the backs and keep defenders off the back (and shoulders) of Stafford. Though many expect the Lions to look for a tackle in round one, Florida center Mike Pouncey could become an Olin Kreutz-style anchor of the middle of the line for years to come. Colorado tackle Nate Solder is a solid option on the outside.
LB: Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims are gone. The Lions need some larger linebackers to fit the Jim Schwartz defense.
CB: Given the presence of Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler in the division, the Lions need to be able to slow down potent passing games. With plenty of young corners already on the roster, a veteran presence could be ideal, via free agency. For now, the draft will be the only way to beef up the position.
Overview: The Lions won six games in 2010 and are poised to take it up a notch, thanks to a nucleus that includes players like Stafford, Best, Ndamukong Suh, and Calvin Johnson. Kyle Vanden Bosch brought much-needed leadership in 2010, and he’s prepared to help keep everyone in shape and on the same page during the lockout.
They’ve got a long way to go to get to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, but they’re moving in the right direction. For the first time in a very long time.