The 2018 NFL season was a disappointing campaign for the Detroit Lions. In Matt Patricia’s first year at the helm as head coach, the Lions finished with a 6-10 record and crawled back into the basement of the NFC North.
Expectations were high in Detroit during the 2018 offseason with Patricia coming from a proven contender in New England and Matthew Stafford having such weapons as Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., and Kenny Golladay. Then, Detroit drafted Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft and had a ground game breaking through.
Unfortunately, by the end of the season, Tate was traded, Jones Jr. was injured, Johnson went down, and Stafford wound up having arguably the worst season since his rookie year.
With all of 2018’s problems aside, it wasn’t all bad. Detroit found themselves with some things to work with and build on. Kerryon Johnson proved he is a very capable back and showed flashes of being something special. The defense also looked promising, ranking 10th in total defense, with the pass defense allowing the eighth least amount of yards league-wide.
Here in 2019, the Detroit Lions are looking to have a big bounce-back year in Patricia’s second season with the franchise.
Here are three ways the Lions can do just that.
The Lions defense was impressive in 2018, led by Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs. The defense as a whole was actually pretty darn good, with one exception: the turnover count. Detroit only had 14 takeaways in 2018, good for 31st in the NFL. This number will need to go up in 2019. Turnovers give the offense more chances to score, which leads to more wins. With the signings of cornerbacks Justin Coleman, Rashaan Melvin, and rookie Amani Oruwariye, we should see more turnovers.
Get T.J. Hockenson Involved Early
The Lions used the eighth pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson. In two seasons with the Hawkeyes, Hockenson had 73 receptions for 1,080 yards and nine touchdowns with only one drop. If that’s not impressive enough, Hockenson split snaps with tight end Noah Fant, another first-round pick. Hockenson has a sure set of hands and the ability to get open, which Stafford desperately needs in crucial situations. He also has the ability to block in the run game, and block well. The Lions will need to be sure that Hockenson is in the gameplan week to week in some form or fashion.
Kerryon Johnson’s Availability
Johnson had an impressive rookie season in 2018, tallying up 681 yards on just 118 carries with three touchdowns on the ground. He didn’t receive his first start until Week 4 against Dallas. Two weeks later, Johnson had a career game, rushing for 158 yards on 19 carries against Miami. Johnson continued to show his potential in the coming weeks. Then, in Week 10 against Carolina, Johnson went down with a knee injury that shelved him for the remainder of the 2018 season.
It is highly expected that Detroit will lean on Johnson to carry the majority of the workload in 2019. If this proves true, Johnson will need to stay healthy in order for this offense to forget it’s lackluster performance from the 2018 campaign.
If these three key points are addressed, we will see a much improved Detroit Lions team in 2019. Can Detroit make the all too elusive leap in 2019 and win the NFC North?
Only time will tell.