The Detroit Lions aren’t coming off the greatest decade they’ve ever had, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t still excellent players patrolling the home sidelines.
Naturally, when the topic came to picking the best player of the decade for the team, there was an easy answer in the form of wideout Calvin Johnson. ESPN’s Michael Rothstein identified Johnson as the player that takes this mantle in a recent piece.
“Johnson is the easy selection for the Lions. He’s the only surefire Hall of Famer to play a significant portion of the 2010s with Detroit and he was for a time the best receiver in the NFL. He set the all-time single-season receiving yards mark with 1,964 yards in 2012, and was a Pro Bowler every year he played in the 2010s — from 2010 to ’15. He was also a three-time first-team All-Pro selection in the 2010s and went over 1,000 yards receiving every season of the decade in which he played. Johnson was simply dominant and often faced double and triple coverage.”
There is little debate about how great Johnson was with the Lions. But who was the second best player for the team during this time? That’s a much harder question. Interestingly enough, the honorable mention wasn’t Matthew Stafford, Darius Slay, Golden Tate or anyone else. It was defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who had a very brief stay in Detroit but made his presence felt while there.
“There are three players worthy of mention here — quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and cornerback Darius Slay. And it’s a tough call, but Suh gets the slight nod over Stafford and Slay. Suh made four Pro Bowls in his five seasons in Detroit and was first-team All-Pro three times. The AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2010, Suh was a dominant force on one of the best run-stopping defenses in NFL history in 2014 and set the tone for the Lions’ defense for the first half of the decade. Stafford is the best quarterback in franchise history and Slay was a perennial Pro Bowler at corner. But Suh was the best at his position for a large portion of his time in Detroit.”
Johnson was the right pick and in the end, Suh probably was as well. In his prime with the Lions, he wrecked games along the defensive front, which is something the Lions have struggled to do since he left.
Calvin Johnson Lions Statistics
Since he came into the league with the Lions in 2007, Johnson wasted little time putting up great plays and amazing statistics. In his career, Johnson put up 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns and more than that, was a human highlight reel unlike any other receiver on the list. Out of Georgia Tech, Johnson was labeled as one of the freakiest players in the draft and he lived up to that distinction in the NFL.
Johnson shattered Rice’s record of 1,848 receiving yards during the 2012 season and was a stable force for the team, often playing through pain and discomfort on the field. He walked away following the 2015 season, leaving a gaping hole in Detroit’s wideout group. Since, Johnson has been embroiled in a feud with the Lions for the last few seasons over money that the team made him pay back upon retirement.
The hope is Johnson can make up with the Lions before that time, as he continues to roll in the accolades following his career. There is simply no forgetting how good he was, and that continue to linger even after he retired. Obviously, he was the best player over this period for Detroit.
Ndamukong Suh Stats
After being the second pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, Suh wasted little time cementing himself as a fearsome defensive player in the NFL. He played 4 seasons in Detroit, and eventually left for Miami, then Los Angeles and currently Tampa Bay. He has put up 518 tackles and 58.5 sacks thus far in his career. He’s also been a 5 time Pro Bowler and a 3 time first team NFL All-Pro.
His work in Detroit probably does cement him as the second best player the team had during the last decade.