An NFL bye week always provides the opportunity to go back and look at where a team has been while also looking forward to where that team could be going. The Detroit Lions have already been put under the second microscope, but what about the first? Individually, who's done the best and worst work so far?
Part of where the team has been involves handing out some awards. Who's been the best rookie? Most valuable player? Those questions and more are answered.
Iron Lion Award (Detroit's MVP): Reggie Bush. Though Calvin Johnson is phenomenal and showed again why in Detroit's most recent match up with the Dallas Cowboys, Bush has brought offensive balance back to the Motor City. Now, teams are forced to at least deal with the threat of the run from the Lions, which wasn't the case in the past. In games where the Lions win, Bush is usually contributing greatly. When Detroit loses, he's either not playing or getting shut down. When Martin Mayhew signed Bush, it's likely he had this kind of ideal complement to Johnson in mind. Both of them stir the drink together in ideal ways. Given the Lions haven't had a running back with the moves or skills of Bush in a long time, though, he gets the nod as most valuable so far.
Top Cub Award (Detroit's Rookie Of The Year): Larry Warford. Offensive line is a position that's hard to project anymore. For as many players which are highly drafted contribute, just as many bust. Fortunately for the Lions, Warford looks like the real deal and a real steal in the third round. Rookie punter Sam Martin has certainly stated his case, but the fact that fans are not hearing Warford's name much can only mean good things for the first year guard. He's seamlessly projected to the next level.
Growing Lion Award (Detroit's Most Improved Player): DeAndre Levy. As a linebacker in Detroit, Levy has always been a good player, but in 2013, Lions' fans could be watching his evolution into a great player. Not only is he near the top of the league in interceptions, but Levy has done a fantastic job in coverage, as well.
Heart Of A Lion Award (Detroit's Best Leader): Nate Burleson. Instead of sulking in the aftermath of an embarrassing accident in which Burleson lost a good chunk of time thanks to diving for pizza while driving, the veteran wide out has made the most of his time off, remaining in shape, working harder than ever to get back fast and constantly motivating his team in the process. Who was that man in street clothes running to greet Matthew Stafford after his late touchdown against Dallas? None other than Burleson, who is one of the best leaders in football. For this, Detroit has been fortunate to have his services.
Detroit Dud Award (Lions' Least Valuable Player): Michael Spurlock. Simply put, Spurlock has to do a much better job in the second half as it relates to confidence and decision making. Far too many times he's made mistakes with regards to not taking touchbacks, reading lanes and making cuts. It hasn't happened yet, but at some point, a gaffe will cost Detroit in field position and end up costing them the game. Might Jeremy Ross steal Spurlock's job? That's up to Spurlock and Spurlock alone to decide.
Sleeping Lion Award (Detroit Players Poised For A Breakout Second Half): Ziggy Ansah and Brandon Pettigrew. A dual award here. Ansah, Detroit's top pick last season, hasn't had a terrible start to his NFL career, but he hasn't looked overwhelming yet, either. With 3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and plenty of pressure registered on the quarterback, he has gotten comfortable with every week. As Detroit's defense looks to turn up the pressure in the second half, watch for Ansah to take a big role. Pettigrew, meanwhile, has frustrated fans with a lack of dependable hands. He's quietly come on a bit stronger lately, and with Tony Scheffler gone and Joseph Fauria still adjusting to the NFL despite a hot start, Pettigrew is the guy who will be counted on for big plays at tight end down the stretch.
Lions' Tribal Elder Award (Best Detroit Veteran): Rashean Mathis. Sure, Mathis is 33, and an old 33 at that, but he's proven to be an ideal mentor for Darius Slay and Chris Houston. Not only has Mathis lent some invaluable insight that only a veteran could to a few younger players, he's played some very quality football himself in key spots for Detroit when Slay has needed time to take a deep breath. Depth is critical late in the season, so as long as Mathis continues to play well, he can remain a solid player for Detroit on the field and a savvy addition on the sidelines, as well.
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