Each week, we chat with our opposing blog to learn a little more about the Chicago Bears competition, and this week, we had coffee with Sean Yuille, head honcho over at Pride of Detroit. You can the post they did with yours truly HERE.
1. Jim Caldwell was a two-time Super Bowl winner in previous gigs (once with the Colts as QB coach, and once as OC for the Ravens), so he's undoubtedly brought a championship air to a Detroit team that badly needed it. What has been the biggest change you have seen with this team since Caldwell has taken over?
Sean: I think Caldwell has really professionalized the locker room and brought a calmer demeanor to the head coaching position. Even with the losses the last two weeks, the Lions seem to be playing like a more intelligent team by cutting down on turnovers, and they are definitely a team that doesn't panic when faced with adversity. And perhaps most importantly, Caldwell's decision to hire Teryl Austin as his defensive coordinator has resulted in the defense becoming one of the best in the NFL.
2. What about the GM Martin Mayhew? He took over in 2008 for Matt Millen, but then went through the Jim Schwartz years after that. What are the thoughts about Mayhew as the ultimate leader of your team?
Sean: On the one hand, Mayhew has done an incredible job of identifying free agents who can help the team (Glover Quin, Reggie Bush, Golden Tate, James Ihedigbo, etc.), and he has shown an ability at times to draft extremely well (see: the Lions' amazing 2013 draft class, which is filled with contributors from top to bottom). On paper, the Lions seemingly have talent all over the place, and this is a team that should contend for the NFC North crown.
The flip side is that some of Mayhew's draft classes have been absolute flops. Only Nick Fairley is left from 2011, for example, and several of Mayhew's second-round picks have been disasters. What's more, the Lions are getting virtually nothing out of their 2014 draft class. That type of inconsistency has really prevented the Lions from becoming a consistent contender.
And finally, the jury is still out on his ability to hire and fire head coaches. Bringing in Jim Schwartz was a good move after the 0-16 season happened, as evidenced by the Lions' run to the playoffs in 2011. However, it felt like Mayhew waited one year too many to get rid of Schwartz, and the whole search that ultimately led to Caldwell's hiring was the definition of uninspiring. If things go south down the stretch for the Lions this year, it wouldn't surprise me if they're looking for a new general manager in 2015.
3. The Lions were hot in the first half of the season, but then hit a couple of speed bumps since then. Calvin Johnson was lost for a few games with an ankle (and seems to still not be fully-recovered), and Detroit hasn't scored a touchdown in their last two games. Is this just a temporary hiccup for the Lions this season, or are there real concerns about things spiraling downward over the last few games?
Sean: It's important to remember that the Lions' losses the last two weeks came on the road against the Cardinals and Patriots, which are two of the best teams in the NFL. Nobody expected a win at New England, and winning at Arizona has proven to be all but impossible for the Lions in recent years. In that sense, there's no reason for fans to be melting down over another second-half collapse just yet.
At the same time, though, there is real concern over whatever it is that the offense is trying to do. Not scoring touchdowns in back-to-back weeks is rock bottom for sure, but inconsistency on that side of the ball has been a season-long issue. The only reason the Lions have seven wins is their defense, and the offense as a whole has taken a big step back under Joe Lombardi. Matthew Stafford hasn't improved, and the offensive line is a tire fire after being a strength a year ago. Generally speaking, there just doesn't seem to be any direction on offense, and that has to change if the Lions want to make a serious run at the playoffs.
4. Who is a player on both offense and defense that we might not know too much about, that could make a huge impact on Sunday?
Sean: On offense, I think Corey Fuller, Kyle's brother, could make an impact if the Lions try some deep balls against the Bears. He had an opportunity for a long touchdown last week go right through his arms, but he's shown an ability to get open downfield, and he's definitely going to have extra motivation going against his brother's team.
On defense, perhaps this is the week that second-round pick Kyle Van Noy, a linebacker out of BYU, has a breakthrough type of game. He missed the first half of the season with an injury, and the Lions have been bringing him along slowly at linebacker, but maybe Teryl Austin will unleash Van Noy on Thursday.
5. Predictions for this game versus the Bears?
Sean: I expect a low-scoring game that ultimately goes the Lions' way. I'd obviously love to see a repeat of last year's Thanksgiving game, which featured a blowout win (over Green Bay), but I just don't think the Lions offense is going to be able to score enough points for that to actually happen. I do think the defense will force at least a couple turnovers, though, and that should be the difference in this game.
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