The Detroit Lions are playing out the string in what’s become a lost season, but if one thing’s been clear down the stretch, it’s that the team can still have a future with Matthew Stafford under center.
Stafford’s play has improved since Matt Patricia departed, and against the Tennessee Titans, he once again showed why the Lions might be smarter to hang onto him this offseason in the name of stability. Stafford threw for 252 yards and 1 touchdown before leaving the blowout for health’s sake. In total, he’s thrown for 5 touchdowns and just 1 interception the last three weeks while playing through a painful rib and thumb injury.
Obviously, Stafford will be the subject of plenty of rumors this offseason, but with the right coach, the Lions can keep the quarterback in the mix and still have a chance in 2021 and beyond. If the Lions think about quarterback objectively, draft someone and groom him behind Stafford for the next few seasons, that would be the smartest way to handle things moving forward. An offensive coach, such as a Brian Daboll, Arthur Smith or Eric Bieniemy, could help Stafford next season while also grooming a young quarterback. Detroit could then elect to consider trading Stafford after 2021 when his value might be a bit higher.
Detroit can make Stafford available and see what offers they receive, but they don’t have to panic and deal him. If anything, Stafford has merely cemented down the stretch why he deserves to stay in the short term regardless of what the talking heads might be saying.
Here are more lessons from yet another failed hunt.
Arthur Smith Showed Out for Lions
The Lions will consider plenty of candidates in their upcoming cycle, but Smith should now firmly be in the mix after a 46 point performance against Detroit. Smith showed the kind of game plan that could make the Lions a success with Matthew Stafford and other quarterbacks. The Lions need to look at plenty of coaches, but it will be interesting to see if Smith is involved in the search. Detroit has to pay attention to this and remember it moving forward.
Mohamed Sanu Should Return
Hopefully, Detroit’s next general manager looks at things objectively and sees what Sanu has brought to the table. Since being cut and coming to Detroit, Sanu has been on a tear and has been very impressive indeed. He collected a mere 38 yards receiving against the Titans, but has caught on well and could be a good low-cost veteran for Detroit to keep around. Since being elevated, Sanu has been consistent and dependable for the Lions which is nice to see.
Detroit’s Defense Needs Upgrades Everywhere
Pick a spot, any spot. Chances are, the Lions need an upgrade in a bad way at that position. Whether it’s safety, cornerback, defensive end, linebacker or defensive tackle, the Lions need an infusion of talent as well as youth on defense in free agency and the draft. They also need an upgrade at coordinator, where an established coach calling the shots could be a significant upgrade toward getting the team more organized.
Lions’ MVP vs. Titans: D’Andre Swift
Swift scored a pair of touchdowns for the second time this season and continues to show the kind of tough running that could make him a fixture in Detroit’s backfield for some time. Swift is going to get his chance to be the lead dog moving forward and games like this is where he earns those looks. In a sophomore year, the Lions should look to Swift to do some big things on the field.
Lions’ Goat vs. Titans: Linebackers
Detroit’s linebackers didn’t have a clue in this game in terms of coverage, and multiple Titans’ offensive stars were constantly running wide open and making plays on the back end. Whether it was Jahlani Tavai, Reggie Ragland or Jamie Collins, everyone struggled badly.
Lions’ Stat to Note: 198
That’s the number of rushing yards the Titans had on this day. The Lions just weren’t equipped to deal with Derrick Henry and a punishing Tennessee running game. The Lions want to get to the point where they can inflict the kind of damage that the Titans can on the ground, and it was a sight to be seen to watch them cruise to victory.
Lions’ Quote to Note
“It was a long day for our guys. You got to give credit to Tennessee and how well they played on offense.” -Darrell Bevell. Detroit’s coach didn’t want to make excuses for his team’s effort, saying they were up against it and credited the Titans for finding a way to run over his team all day long.