Today we are going to finish up the NFC North. We have a special guest from SB Nation's Detroit Lions site, Pride of Detroit. Sean Yuille has answered a few questions I had for him, so sit down, shut up and read on for some Q&A from a fan base that, I'm sure, most Saints fans can identify with.
Jon: The Lions had won only two games in the two prior years, then won six games in 2010. What was (were) the reason(s) the Lions were able to improve drastically in a short time?
Sean: The main reason is more talent. I know that sounds like a "duh" type of answer, but when Jim Schwartz took over as head coach in 2009, there simply wasn't much talent, as is to be expected with a team coming off a 0-16 season. Since then, general manager Martin Mayhew has spent two offseasons amassing talent via free agency, the draft and most impressively, via trades. The Lions now have talent in the starting lineup and with their depth players, making them much more competitive than in quite some time.
Jon: The Lions took Suh with the 2nd overall pick in the 2010 draft. Has he met expectations? Are the Lions planning on building their defense around him?
Sean: It's not often that a player who was the second overall pick exceeds expectations, but Ndamukong Suh did just that. He wreaked havoc with opposing offensive lines all season and gave quarterbacks a reason to be fearful. There is no question he is a guy you can build a team around, both for his play on the field and his leadership off it. He is an impressive person all-around, and all Lions fans are glad he ended up being the pick.
Jon: What are your feelings on Stafford? Is he injury prone? Or are defenses keying on his shoulder?
Sean: I'm not ready to call him injury prone just yet. I would call it a string of bad luck. In 2009, he had his knee bend awkwardly on a sack against the Bears. Later in the season he got drilled on a Hail Mary against the Browns, which first injured his left shoulder. This past year, he took a hard sack and had his arm bend awkwardly against the Bears. This resulted in his right shoulder injury, which was hurt again against the Jets on a combination of direct landings on the shoulder. Obviously if he can't stay healthy after having shoulder surgery this offseason, it may be time to realize he is in fact injury prone, but for now I'm hoping it was more bad luck than anything.
Jon: Name an MVP and LVP of the 2010 Lions. One of each for offense and defense.
Sean: On offense, the MVP has to be Calvin Johnson. He is a freak of nature physically and can turn simple slant routes into 70-yard touchdowns. He has an unreal combination of size and speed, and when Matthew Stafford is there to throw him the ball, they make for an awesome combination. The LVP is pair of wide receivers: Bryant Johnson and Derrick Williams. Neither stepped it up to be a threat to defenses as the Lions' third receiver, and Mayhew actually sort of called them out for their lack of production a few weeks ago. It wouldn't surprise me if neither makes the team next season, as they both struggle with drops and are usually nonexistent in the offense.
Defensively, the MVP is an easy choice: Ndamukong Suh. He was the rookie of the year, an All-Pro selection and a Pro-Bowler in 2010, and there's no doubt he was the Lions' MVP on defense. The LVP is probably safety C.C. Brown, who was originally nicknamed "Can't Cover Brown" during his days with the Giants. For the Lions, he showed some potential, but most of the time he was whiffing on tackles and blowing coverage. I can definitely why the unfortunate nickname developed.
Jon: What is the Lions biggest need this off-season?
Sean: If the Lions can't re-sign free agent Chris Houston (he could become an unrestricted free agent in a new CBA), I would say cornerback is the biggest need. Even if he is brought back it will be a huge need, but linebacker might be an even bigger need with Julian Peterson being released and it not being 100 percent that Zack Follett's football career will be able to continue (he suffered a bad neck injury last season). Even if Follett continues playing, the Lions probably will have two open spots at linebacker, so that's an area where some signings and draft picks will have to be made.
Jon: What pieces do the Lions need in place to finally make the playoffs for the first time since 1999?
Sean: On offense, they have many pieces in place. Unlike many draft experts, I don't see a big need to mess with the offensive line. If Stafford can stay healthy, the quarterback position is set, and the same goes for the running back position with Jahvid Best. At wide receiver, Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson are great talents, and the Lions have Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew at tight end. I would say the only needs are to find a consistent third WR and perhaps another starting-caliber running back to take some of the load off of Best since Kevin Smith likely won't be back.
Defensively, the D-line is set. At linebacker, as mentioned, the Lions probably will need to make some moves to improve depth and find a starter or two. In the secondary, it appears the safety position is set with Louis Delmas and a battle between Amari Spievey and Erik Coleman for the other starting spot. The cornerback position is wide open right now with Houston's future up in the air. That will be a position of need no matter what, but just how much of a need depends on what happens with Houston.
I would like to thank Sean Yuille from Pride of Detroit. Please visit them for any Lions related news.