By Brian Kalchik @RantsportsBrian on June 11, 2014
With a new coaching staff and some key personnel additions, the Detroit Lions are a big unknown heading into the 2014 NFL season. How well will the players adjust to new schemes on both sides of the ball? Which players will step up or fall? It's still too early to know these answers, but its never too early to speculate. Here are five early predictions for the Lions' 2014 season.
In Joe Lombardi's previous offensive scheme in New Orleans, the Saints used a backfield-by-committee approach where the lead back only had 147 carries. I expect that same approach this season, but I think Joique Bell will handle the rock more than Bush. That doesn't mean that Bush will be replaced, however. Bush's versatility as a receiver will limit his carries on the ground, and Bell will be featured more in late-game situations.
In the ever-confusing secondary for the Lions, there are still more questions than answers. While Darius Slay is expected to start and finish the season, no other corner on the roster can be relied on to do the same. With Rashean Mathis, Chris Houston and Bill Bentley all having their various issues, rookie fourth-rounder Nevin Lawson will become a starter at mid-season. Lawson will provide some much-needed speed to a unit that really lacks it.
Even on a defense that features Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah, LB DeAndre Levy will replace all of them as Detroit's best defender in 2014. In 2013, Levy finished second in the NFL in interceptions with six behind Richard Sherman, had 117 tackles and deflected 15 passes. Levy is starting to become a great two-way linebacker. Not only will he be a Pro Bowler this year, but he will overtake Suh on the NFL Top 100 list in 2015.
With Eric Ebron guaranteed to be the No. 1 tight end this season, the battle to be his backup will come down to Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria. When both played last season, Fauria outperformed Pettigrew, catching seven touchdowns to Pettigrew's two. Pettigrew's receiving ability has regressed in each of the past two seasons, and the Lions won't use a player who is only good at one thing.
Off the field, Nick Fairley has done everything this year to stay in Detroit. After being declined his fifth-year option, Fairley has slimmed down from 312 pounds to 297 this offseason and has said all the right things in a contract year. However, the on-field performance is another story. Fairley had discipline issues last year with many personal foul calls. Besides, paying big money to two defensive tackles isn't smart.
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