We knew Detroit Lions would lose but here are 10 reasons why they are failing at being bad

Detroit Free Press

It’s time for a mid-term report on the Detroit Lions.

Or an early obituary, if you prefer. It’s been that kind of year.

In early September, I wrote a column titled: “Detroit Lions are gonna lose a ton, but here’s how they can still have a great season.”

I listed 10 things the Lions had to accomplish for this to be considered a success, despite the expected losing. So now that we are at the halfway point of the season — or as close as you can get in a 17-game schedule — let’s pause and review how they are doing beyond that eight-game losing streak.

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1. “Ideally, during this season, you will watch the Lions and think: ‘Yeah, they don’t have many game-breakers, and they keep losing, but look at Penei Sewell, Jeff Okudah, T.J. Hockenson and that offensive line — you can see some foundation pieces here. You can see them getting better every week,’” I wrote in September.

Hmm. I’m not sure anybody is looking at this team and seeing a surge of growth that offers much long-term hope. Okudah is hurt and the offensive line has been hammered with injuries. Hockenson has just two touchdowns, which is tied for 12th among tight ends. To be fair, the Lions lack of offensive weapons makes it easy for defenses to clamp down on Hockenson. And Sewell has switched positions. While Sewell has had some rocky stretches, he does look like a foundation piece. So that’s a positive in the midst of a whole bunch of ugly.

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2. “The Lions have the makings of a strong offensive line but it needs time to grow together.”

Um, yikes. Let’s state the obvious: there isn’t a lot of jelling happening. Taylor Decker went out with a hand injury and center Frank Ragnow is on injured reserve with turf toe. The Lions are losing precious time for this line to jell together because pieces are missing. Instead of growing together, the line has been forced into patch-work mode.

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3. “I realize many want Matthew Stafford to have a great season for the Rams — the folks in Detroit are sentimental like that when superstars leave and finally get a chance to win (I see you, Justin Verlander) — but it would be far better for the Lions if the Rams fell apart and had a stunning disappointing season. Because the Lions hold the Rams’ 2022 first-round draft pick.”

OK, so this isn’t happening either. The Rams are 7-1 and it looks like the Lions will pick up a first-round pick near the end of the round.

4. But for this to be a successful season, (Dan Campbell) will need to show he can do more than give great quotes. Ideally, he will show he can make a difference during a game. Not just him, but his assistants.”

There is one thing we know for certain about Campbell: he is not afraid to be bold and take risks, although some would say too many risks. He had a horrible game against the Eagles. But he is refreshingly honest, still has the locker room, will admit mistakes and seems to want to grow from them.

5. “Is (Jared Goff) the right guy for this team going forward? Is he a foundation piece or a transitional quarterback, just holding the job until the Lions try to find their next franchise quarterback?”

Well, at least the Lions have accomplished that. It’s clear that Goff is not the long-term answer at quarterback. To be fair, he has been put into an impossible situation, playing with a banged-up offensive line and an anemic group of wide receivers. But it’s obvious he is just a place holder.

6. “The Lions prove they can run the ball.”

Yikes, Part 2. Because of that offensive line and falling behind, the Lions haven’t run the ball effectively. They average 93.1 yards per game, 25th in the NFL. That’s not acceptable for a team built to run the ball.

7. “The Lions look better defensively … I realize they can’t look much worse, right? Getting rid of Patricia and his defense was addition through subtraction.”

Actually, the defense has improved, at least in comparison to this dismal offense. So that’s a positive.

8. “(Trinity Benson) doesn’t have to be great. The Lions didn’t trade that much for him. They gave up a fifth- and seventh-round pick in 2022 and got a sixth-round pick in 2023 back. But it would give me even more confidence in GM Brad Holmes and this scouting department if Benson pans out.”

Yikes, Part 3: First, Holmes struck out on wide receiver Breshad Perriman, giving him a free-agent deal and then cutting him. Then, Holmes traded for Benson, in essence, giving up draft picks to cover a $2 million mistake. And what did they get? Benson has played in six games and has six receptions. Two draft picks for six catches and a future pick? Ugh. This is far more concerning than comforting.

9. “The Lions young secondary grows before our eyes.”

Okudah is out with injury, so he’s not growing. But the defense hasn’t been horrible. Not like under Matt Patricia. The Lions’ pass defense ranks 17th in the NFL, allowing 244.4 yards per game. It’s no longer historically bad. And if there is anything encouraging about this season, there it is.

10. “If they play an interesting brand of football while showing improvement across the board, and Campbell proves he can manage a game and has this team on the right track while still ending up with a top-three draft pick, that would be a productive, successful season in a year that is certain to be filled with double-digit losses.”

Well, it looks like they’ll get that top-three pick. Of course, I didn’t realize they might hit double-digit losses by the middle of November. Yes, they have been interesting at times, losing two games on kicks. And it sure was interesting against the Rams. But the Philadelphia disaster is so strong in mind, watching this team come out flat that it clouds my judgement.

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Still, if you look close, you can find a needle of hope bobbing in the waves. A few youngsters have been encouraging. The defense has improved. And they now have an answer about Goff.

But the negatives far outweigh any positives.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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