Hey, we’ve got football coming up on Sunday featuring the Lions and Bears. Oh my, indeed. Mike Payton over at Pride of Detroit was kind enough to give us an idea of what is going on over in the Motor City as we get ready to kick off the 2020 NFL season.
Windy City Gridiron: The Lions hired Matt Patricia in the same cycle as Matt Nagy in 2018. Did the Lions make the right choice for their franchise and what do the Lions need to do this year to show he’s the guy going forward?
Pride of Detroit: Right now the jury is still out on Patrica. What’s been apparent to most is that he and GM Bob Quinn are trying to build something. Their first year together, the team vastly underperformed. Their second year together they dealt with a plethora of injuries, most notably to Matthew Stafford.
2020 is the make or break year. Their jobs are on the line after ownership essentially publicly said its playoffs or bust. So this is the year they answer both your questions.
WCG: The Lions have put together talented skill position groups to give Matthew Stafford plenty of weapons, but the news of signing Adrian Peterson came as a bit of a surprise. What’s the plan with AP, Kerryon Johnson, and rookie D’Andre Swift?
PoD: I wouldn’t expect to see Swift this Sunday. He just returned to limited practice last week and I think they want to be careful with him until he’s 100% ready to go. When they day comes, look for him to be the primary option for the Lions. Especially in the passing game.
As for Kerryon Johnson and Adrian Peterson, look for both to get plenty of work on Sunday. I expect the Lions to give most of the carries to Peterson out of the gate. Just to see what he has and if it’s worth holding on to him or not.
WCG: The Lions traded cornerback Darius Slay in the off-season and drafted the talented Jeffrey Okudah out of Ohio State #3 overall. What was the thinking behind the Slay move and what’s the expectation for Okudah in Year 1?
PoD: I think it goes back to the Lions front office and coaching staff wanting to build something. There was a clash between Slay and Patrica and it was clear that Slay did not want to be a part of whatever they’re building. It’s a shame, because he’s a very talented player. But you gotta be able to mesh everything together.
I would look for Okudah to have a growing year. The guy is already very talented, but his work ethic and want to learn is going to make him a very good player someday. As for the right away, the Lions have a nice duo in Desmond Trufant and Amani Oruwariye. They’ll get the start Sunday and Okudah will probably see something like 20 snaps.
WCG: What’s your biggest worry about this team headed into the season opener?
PoD: It’s the pass rush. The Lions had the worst pass rush in the NFL in 2019 and it feels like they didn’t do enough to fix it. Sure they got a a draft steal in Julian Okwara from Notre Dame and they did pick up Danny Shelton to man the middle. But it feels like they neglected pairing someone on the opposite side of Trey Flowers to help get to the quarterback. Romeo (Julian’s big brother) Okwara is talented, but I’m not sure if he’s the answer.
WCG: What does this team do well? In other words, what’s the identity of the 2020 Detroit Lions?
PoD: This offense, if kept healthy, is going to be a problem for everyone. Matthew Stafford has had probably the best camp I’ve seen him have since I began covering the team in 2014. He’s been absolutely on point.
Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are ready time go, TJ Hockenson showed up to camp in tremendous shape after working out with George Kittle all summer and the run game might just work out in 2020.
Defensively there’s still a lot of questions and it’s a little concerning.
As a team, I have to say they are united like I’ve never seen them before. They appear to have fully, as a team, bought into Matt Patrica and company. There’s a lot of positivity around Detroit right now. It’s both exciting and scary at the same time.
Thank you to Mike and Pride of Detroit for the knowledge!