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Field Gulls talks with Pride Of Detroit, SB Nation's Lions blog, to preview Sunday's matchup.
I had the opportunity to swap scouting reports with Sean Yuille of SB Nation's Lions' blog, Pride of Detroit, and he had some really interesting insights into the Seahawks upcoming opponent, which you'll see below. Also, you can see my answers to his questions over at PoD. Big thanks to Sean for taking the time to provide his notes!
DK: The Lions came into the season with high expectations after a very good 2011 season, and thus far have struggled a bit to meet them, now at 2-4. What are the biggest things holding this team back from becoming a consistent force in the NFC North? Injuries? Lack of talent, depth? Coaching, leadership?
Yuille: The talent is there. The Lions' biggest problem is being inconsistent. There hasn't been a game yet this season where all three phases came together and excelled at the same time. Against the Titans, for example, the offense got rolling after a slow start, but a pair of special teams touchdowns and some very weak play by the defense came back to bite them. Then, against the Vikings, the Lions' offense went missing and the defense was outstanding, but two more special teams touchdowns spelled doom for the Lions.
On a more general basis, the Lions' offense has been horrendous when it should be their biggest strength. The defense has done a pretty good job all things considered, but there's no doubt this team is in trouble right now. The coaching has been pretty disappointing, and the execution has been even worse. To say the least, the Lions have a lot of problems they need to fix to be a winning team.
DK: On offense, how do you think the Lions will look to attack Seattle's normally stingy defense? Everyone knows about Calvin Johnson, but what other weapons will Matt Stafford have at his disposal? How would you characterize Detroit's identity on O? Are the Lions trying for more balance or does their gameplan mostly feature shotgun, spread em out looks where Stafford is being leaned on for much of the offensive output?
Yuille: Calvin Johnson hasn't really done a whole lot this season. Defenses are game planning to force Stafford to look in other directions, and so far the offense has not reacted well. Stafford's got a ton of other targets to look in the direction of, but he's not doing a good job of getting them the ball. He has looked off all season, and I actually don't think he's forcing the ball to Johnson enough. It's tough to put my finger on what exactly is wrong with the offense, but it's a mix of Stafford being inaccurate and not reacting well to pressure, receivers dropping balls left and right and the game plan not being all that great at times.
The Lions have tried to be a much more balanced team this season than they have been in the past, but I think they need to go back to what actually works -- spreading the field and going no-huddle. There's a reason the Lions actually play well offensively when they're trying to mount a late comeback. They go no-huddle and get into a rhythm, which is something that's been missing for the first three quarters most weeks.
DK: On defense, what is the Lions' biggest strength and what's their biggest weakness? Are there any major injuries of note?
Yuille:The Lions have done an excellent job against the run this season. This was one area where they really struggled in 2011, but the front seven has really turned things around this year. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the back seven and the pass defense. The Lions are pretty thin depth-wise with cornerback Jacob Lacey (concussion), cornerback Drayton Florence (broken arm) and safety Amari Spievey (concussion) all out.
Rookie cornerback Bill Bentley is also dealing with a shoulder injury, and his absence on Monday forced the Lions to sign a cornerback just before their game against the Bears. They already are lacking talent in the secondary, and injuries haven't been kind to them, either.
DK: Who are some of Detroit's unheralded players on both sides of the football that we out here in Seattle might not hear about much? Are there any future stars on the roster that show a lot of promise?
Yuille: On offense, wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who was a second-round pick this year, is finally getting a chance to play. He had been sparingly used through the first part of the season with him coming off an ACL injury. Now, though, with Nate Burleson out for the season after breaking his leg on Monday, it looks like Broyles will be counted on quite a bit.
He was known in college for catching a lot of passes, and in the small amount of time he saw the field this week in Chicago he looked quite good. The Lions will need him to play well going forward with Burleson on IR.
On defense, linebacker DeAndre Levy has had a really good season so far. He is dealing with a hamstring injury and hasn't practiced yet this week, but the Lions will certainly hope he ends up playing, as he's a big part of the front seven's turnaround this year.
DK: How have the Lions played at home lately? Does Ford Field give a big advantage to the home team?
Yuille: Ford Field can be quite loud for big-time games. Last year in a Monday night game against the Bears, for example, the crowd forced nine false starts because fans were so loud. Honestly, though, I don't anticipate the crowd to be too much of a factor on Sunday. With the Lions being 2-4 and having played some really awful football lately, I don't think the crowd will be all that amped up. Just look at the Lions' last home game -- a 20-13 loss to the Vikings. If Seattle can get ahead early on, the crowd probably will be taken out of the game.