Kenny Golladay Jersey

The Detroit Lions have a budding star in Kenny Golladay, and a guy who can take things to the next level at wide receiver. And that’s just why former Lions wideout Nate Burleson took time out to highlight Golladay recently as his player of the day, and Burleson was quite bullish on what Golladay can do for the Lions next season, where he will be getting the focus as one of the team’s top weapons.

Burleson, on Good Morning Football, once again sung Golladay’s praises while wearing his jersey.

“You’re going to look at Matthew Stafford and constantly ask, who are his wide receivers? He got that when Calvin was playing with him, them Marvin Jones, then Golden Tate. The reason they were able to let Tate go was this young and fairly unknown wide receiver stepped up and played huge for them,” Burleson said, hinting folks don’t know Golladay as well considering the Lions have been a team that’s lost.

None of that dimishes his value for 2019 though.

Coming into last season, it’s was clear that what the Lions wanted to do offensively could center around Golladay at the position, given they already had a powerful big two in Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. When Tate left, it only ensured those chances should only come more frequently in the future, and when Jones was injured and shut down, this was only more the case. The wideout is big and physical with deep ball potential, and based on his first season, already knows how to work like a professional. That has been a big asset for him as it relates to taking a big jump. Arguably, Golladay is the one guy who could really help transform the group into one of the best in the league given how he’s trending.

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On the outside, it just feels like Golladay, with his size and ability, is a key to the whole operation, and that’s only more true now that Tate is gone and the team needs someone to help pick up some slack. For the Lions, the thought of Golladay developing into a monster was scary because he has looked the part most of the season, and it’s only clear that’s where he’s going in the future.

So far, even as the Lions haven’t always gotten the ball to Golladay consistently, he’s gone off, which is a great sign for the future. He’s going to be a guy who plays a starring role for the team as a result of this, and could only be more dangerous as a result of expectations he blew away down the stretch.

In 2019, everyone will be excited to see how high Golladay’s star might climb. And watch out for it if Burleson is to be concerned.

Jarrad Davis Jersey

ALLEN PARK — Sometimes, Jarrad Davis looks like a first-round pick. Other times, not so much.

But the Detroit Lions believe his best football is yet to come.

“As young players, you like to have some consistency,” coach Matt Patricia said of Davis recently. “That’s the best thing because then you can improve from year to year.”

But Davis hasn’t had any kind of consistency in his two years in Detroit. He played in Teryl Austin’s system as a rookie in 2017. He started slowly, and at one point lost his full-time job before turning it on down the stretch. Then Detroit threw that defense out the window when Patricia arrived last year, and Davis once again struggled early.

He’s a terrific leader and has the character makeup that Patricia prizes for his defense. All the intangibles are there. And hey, so are some of the numbers. He was the only player in the NFL last year with at least 100 tackles and six sacks. He is the only player in Lions history to do that.

But Davis also missed 12 tackles in the running game, which was third most in the league, and 17 overall. Me missed one tackle for every 6.7 tackles he made, which was the fifth-worst rate among linebackers last season according to ProFootballFocus. And he was even worse in coverage, which has long been his weakness.

He allowed 40 of the 52 balls thrown his way to be completed last year, including one thrown by Dak Prescott to Ezekiel Elliott that wound up downing Detroit in Dallas. Yeah, it took a precision throw from Prescott and a heck of a catch by Elliott to make it happen. But it’s not like that was the only ball Davis was beat on either. He allowed opposing quarterbacks to amass a passer rating of 106.6 when targeting him, which was 36th among linebackers who played at least half their team’s defensive snaps.

All told, Davis ranked 80th among 92 linebackers according to PFF.

Given his leadership and overall volume and availability, you can live with some of that. But you also expect a lot more out of a first-round pick. And the Lions hope that they’ll see some of it now that there’s some consistency building around Davis.

He’ll be working under the same coordinator in consecutive years for the first time. Same coach too. Same scheme. Same position coach. And most of the same personnel as well, with Devon Kennard and Christian Jones back alongside him at linebacker, plus defensive linemen like Snacks Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand and Romeo Okwara. The biggest change will be the addition of Trey Flowers, who happens to be one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the game, which should help free up Davis tomake more plays.

“We gotta just keep giving to him as much as possible, and that’s what keeps me up at night,” Patricia said. “Those are the things that I want to make sure I can do to help him be a better player, be a better person, be a better leader, all of it.

“So, guys like Kennard help the room a lot. (Quandre) Diggs. We got guys like that. Trey Flowers will help a lot. Snacks is great, his instincts, and you can learn from all those guys. And that’s what’s so important.”

Patricia, whose first defensive job was coaching the linebackers in New England, has a special passion for the position. He said he’s built this defense from the inside-out, and it requires constant communication between the coaches and linebackers to make it work. And he believes Davis is the kind of player he can rely on to make that happen.

Yes, he’s had some consistency issues. But he’s also been dogged by not having a veteran to lean on, instead being asked to step into a starting role right away as a rookie and then playing with new personnel in a new scheme last year.

“It’s hard because there hasn’t been that consistent, dynamic guy next to him that maybe has 10 years experience or 12 years experience that he can go have that conversation with,” Patricia said. “That’s just a little bit different. There should always be a, call it lineage transfer from positions, especially at the linebacker position.”

Kerryon Johnson Jersey

After years of futility from the backfield, the Detroit Lions found a lead-dog in running back Kerryon Johnson.

As a rookie, the back displayed a combination of speed to the edge, power, quick moves in a phone booth, and decisiveness. The skill set allowed Johnson to bust Detroit’s streak of 70 games without a 100-yard rusher last season.

Johnson’s workload increased after the Lions’ Week 6 bye, as he became the focal point of the backfield. Then a knee injury wiped away the final six games of his rookie campaign.

Looking at the Lions’ current corral of ball carriers, it’s assumed Johnson should get an even larger heaping of the duties in 2019. Coach Matt Patricia, however, wants to focus on not overworking Johnson this year, especially coming off a knee injury.

“Regardless of Kerryon, I think it’s a position-specific thing where those guys, they take a lot of hits,” Patricia said at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix this week, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “They’re in those situations a lot where their bodies are taking some pounding so you want to be conscious of how many plays they’re getting, especially early on in the year. And obviously, we just want to win. That’s the most important thing. But you do have to look at big picture and say, ‘OK, great, we could win a couple now, but if we wear this guy out and he doesn’t help us in the long run then what’s the trade off?'”

The Lions telegraphed their intent by scouring the open market for backup-caliber running backs this offseason. With the Rams matching the offer sheet for restricted free agent back Malcolm Brown, the Lions continue to search for a back to pair with Johnson.

The LeGarrette Blount experiment failed horrifically last season as a power-combo with Johnson. Theo Riddick remains a pass-catcher out of the backfield, and Zach Zenner is no more than depth at the position. Detroit appears a prime candidate to select a back in the mid-to-late rounds of next month’s draft.

Regardless of who the Lions add, the offense should be centered around Johnson in 2019, even if the workload is curtailed slightly to keep the running back fresh.

“The thing about it, and it’s no different from any player going from Year 1 to Year 2, it’ll be a whole different set of circumstances for him next year,” Patricia said. “Teams will definitely identify him differently. Teams are going to come at him differently. They’re going to put more pressure on him. So is the passing game, is the run game, is the blitz-pickup game going to look the same? We don’t know. But what I do know is, he loves the game, he works extremely hard. This guy wants to win. He cares. So I know he’s going to get better, we just got to see how he responds to the different looks that he gets from the other coaches.”

Frank Ragnow Jersey

ALLEN PARK — The eyes of the sporting world turned upon Durham, N.C., last night. Actors and actresses and athletes of all stripes were at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and even a former president.

Yeah, Barack Obama was in the house.

And they were all there to see young Zion Williamson.

Who, you surely know by now, made it less than a minute before his shoe exploded. He sprained his knee on the play, and did not return. Duke went on to trail the entire game, and fears grew about the status of the rookie sensation — who, it appears, has avoided major injury.

Still, the bizarre play has dominated sports talk today — and it bears a striking resemblance to when Lions rookie guard Frank Ragnow blew out his shoe during a Week 16 game against Minnesota in December.

“I’m not really sure how (the cleats are) put together there, but I know there’s probably a lot of force working through them,” coach Matt Patricia said. “I was more concerned about if he had hurt himself on the play. The ankle injury and all the rest of it, sometimes when those things stick wide like that, I just wanted to make sure his foot was OK.”

Ragnow suffered a high ankle sprain as a senior at Arkansas and missed the final five games of the season. He also missed the Senior Bowl and combine, although that didn’t frighten the Lions from taking him with the 20th overall pick in the NFL draft.

He was immediately inserted into the starting lineup at left guard, and played pretty well too. After allowing 13 QB pressures in the first two games of his career, he allowed just 23 the rest of the season. He finished 39th among all guards according to ProFootballFocus. Oh, and he played 1,074 of a possible 1,075 offensive snaps.

Yeah. He didn’t miss another play the rest of the season.

“I missed the frickin one play,” Ragnow told the Lions’ team website. “The only one. Ahhh. Now I’m not going to be on (the list of players playing every snap) because of my stupid shoe. So yeah, I’m not too happy about it.”

Hey, at least his leg was OK.

Marvin Jones Jersey

Marvin Jones was a bench player and spot starter this past fantasy season. He was the number #57 ranked WR and the #268 ranked player overall. He would have been in that next tier of WRs if he had played more games. Based on average fantasy points he was the #28 WR. He showed an upward trajectory as the season went on. He averaged 8.9 FPs in his first 2 games and 11.9 FP in his final 3 games. Our projected ceiling for Jones when he ‘goes off’ is 24 fantasy points (his average is 9.1FPs). Marvin Jones (2019 Season Projection: 45 Rec, 600 Yards, 4.9 TDs) is projected to take a slight step downward in the upcoming fantasy season. His rank based on total projected fantasy points has him as the #64 player at his position.

His season average dropped measurably from last season. His fantasy average dropped by 12 percent.

Marvin Jones only saw the field in 9 games in 2018. But based on his per game average, he would have been the #28 WR and is therefore someone to consider if there are no lingering concerns. In 2017 he was the #5 ranked fantasy WR and averaged 10.3 FP per game. Assuming he can be back on the field as strong as he has in the past, Jones is poised to re-establish himself as an elite fantasy WR. He is relatively weaker than stronger in more categories. The strengths are bolded below.

He averaged 11.4 FD points and 13.7 DK points per game. We used his second highest game as his ceiling and second lowest as his floor. On DraftKings his floor was 5.9 and on FanDuel it was 4.4 fantasy points. When he was good, he was very good with a DraftKings ceiling of 16.9 and 14.9 on FanDuel. He has had more bad FanDuel games (below average by 20%) than good games (20% above average), and the same was true on DraftKings. We are only including games where they were in the daily fantasy slate and played.

Darius Slay Jersey

Being a cornerback in the NFL is hard. That’s hardly a groundbreaking statement, but it’s arguably the position with the steepest learning curve in the NFL for young players. For Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay, he has seen both his play on the field and his role in the locker room grow leading up to his seventh season after experiencing that learning curve first hand.

After the release of longtime safety Glover Quin last month, there was a clear leadership void in the defensive backfield for the Lions. Or so it would seem. In truth, Slay has been preparing for this role since before he even left high school.

Becoming a parent would mark a stark change in responsibility for anyone, regardless of their age. For Slay it was a little different. He was fifteen when his girlfriend gave birth to his first son. So long childhood, hello fatherhood.

Slay, now a doting father of four, has turned into a ballhawking star in his six seasons in Detroit. However, during his steady climb to notoriety amongst NFL cornerbacks, he has never had to be the most influential voice in his position room.

Slogging through a typically rough rookie season 2013, Slay developed a close relationship with veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis, who in his first season with the Lions, was in the twilight of his career. Mathis’ calm nature and steady play certainly had an influence on Slay, who was an impressive athlete coming out of college, yet had a ways to go in terms of learning how to play his position.

When Mathis retired following the 2015 season, the leadership mantle was undoubtedly passed on to Quin, who shared Mathis’ quiet leadership persona, letting his play do the talking. Together, he and Slay formed a solid playmaking duo for the Lions on the backend of the defense for the better part of the last decade. With Quin now gone, Slay’s time as the elder statesman of the secondary has begun.

Slay’s flashy, attention grabbing style doesn’t necessarily resonate with that of a locker room leader, but it has begun to balance with his emerging character. This may have coincided with him, Mathis and Quin joining the team at the same time prior to the 2013 season. Quin and Mathis always led by example with the Lions, and Slay’s play has been much louder than his personality the last three seasons, with 13 total interceptions and 56 passes defensed over that span.

Another critical factor in Slay’s climb to the leadership summit is one that hits closer to home. When the Lions drafted safety Tracy Walker in the third round of the 2018 draft, they were adding one of Slay’s cousins, from the same hometown of Brunswick, GA. The addition of free agent cornerback Justin Coleman this month, also from Brunswick, must feel like a family reunion of sorts for the three “cousins”.

As the oldest of the three, Slay is undoubtedly the most influential voice of the trio, and has set a solid example for his young disciples as well as the rest of the defensive backs. The chemistry should be strong in the Lions’ secondary, and the two younger additions should have a solid foundation on the Lions upon which to to grow and contribute.

At age 28, Slay is in the prime of his career. He has clearly matured into a dependable head of the secondary, largely thanks to the impact of departed veteran teammates and newly arrived kinsmen.

It is often said that at some point in an NFL player’s career, there is a confluence of physical skill and mental mettle. For Darius Slay, it would appear that that time is now, and the Lions’ defense should be better for it in 2019.

Matthew Stafford Jersey

From 1999-2008, the starting quarterbacks for the Detroit Lions have been Charlie Batch, Gus Frerotte, Stoney Case, Ty Detmer, Mike McMahon, Joey Harrington, Jeff Garcia, Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky, and Daunte Culpepper. I’m no math whiz but I can tell you that those 10 players average out to one quarterback per season and I can also tell you that that ratio is not a formula for winning very many football games!

Now, no one is in any rush to put any of the aforementioned hurlers into the Pro Football Hall of Fame but there were a few serviceable arms among the bunch. For instance, Batch surprisingly steered the very first post-Barry iteration of the Lions to a wildcard playoff berth in 1999.

From 2000-2002, Garcia was a three-time Pro Bowler for San Francisco before he hit Motown (and made another Pro Bowl at age 37 upon his departure from the Lions). And Kitna was the 2003 NFL Comeback Player of the Year with the Cincinnati Bengals. Rounding out this list is Culpepper, who led the NFL in passing yards in 2004 as a Minnesota Viking.

My point is, during that decade, though Detroit employed some guys who were more than capable of winning games in the NFL but for one reason or another, none of them accomplished much of anything as the Lions signal caller. There was no real continuity within the franchise at the game’s most important position.

From 2009-until current, the starting quarterback for the Detroit Lions has been Matthew Stafford and Matthew Stafford alone (barring his early career injury issues). During his tenure, he has broken several team and league records and he has provided the city, the organization and its fans with countless thrilling moments such as his 8 come from behind victories that he spurred on in 2016.

His toughness, grit, ingenuity, generosity, and leadership has accompanied his cannon of a right arm as he has combined those traits to his advantage and used them all to endear himself to much of the fan base but there are still many out there who are dissatisfied with his service.

All of his records sometimes ring a bit hollow with only two playoff appearances (both losses), no division titles to speak of, and a less-than-stellar win/loss record against opponents who are above .500. Not to mention that competing twice a year against one of the best players to have ever played the position in Aaron Rodgers isn’t exactly helping his case either. On top of all that, his massive contracts have at times hampered the Lions from being able to fill out the rest of their roster with playmakers at various levels.

For better or worse though, Stafford has shown himself to be Detroit’s best quarterback in the Super Bowl era and that speaks volumes. Does he sometimes leave more to be desired, yes he does but he has also authored some of the most unbelievable moments in Lions’ history. I was a Stafford fan back when he was slinging spirals for the University of Georgia and I will continue to be a fan for as long as he suits up in the Honolulu blue and silver.

Last year may have been a down year statistically for him, but Matthew Stafford still has a lot of his best football ahead of him. He can still lead the Detroit Lions to the bigger and better things.