Now that the 2013 season is in the books, it's time to hand out final grades to the Detroit Lions for all phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams. Though the Lions had a tough 7-9 finish and struggled at times, there were a few bright spots to be found across the roster on each side of the ball.
What went right? What went wrong? The final Lions' scorecard of the year takes a quick look and hands out only two passing grades for 2013.
Offense: D+. The Lions started hot in the first few games, with Reggie Bush looking good, Nate Burleson coming out on fire and Matthew Stafford managing the game well. Then, Burleson had a late-night car crash attempting to save pizza, and things fell apart from there. Without a secondary threat most of the year, Calvin Johnson got beat up, Bush was injured and Stafford started making more turnovers in the second half. The offensive line, which blocked fantastically all year and found some young building blocks like LaAdrian Waddle, Larry Warford and Riley Reiff, saves this group from getting a very below average grade. Joique Bell has also emerged as a force to complement Bush. The bottom line, however, was Stafford's glaring turnover regression without a secondary threat to complement Johnson. Those will be the biggest issues the next staff must confront.
Defense: B-. Most of the year, Detroit's defense was keeping the team in games and giving them a chance to win. Starting linebacker DeAndre Levy was arguably the MVP, grabbing six interceptions, and for the first half of the season, Detroit was forcing turnovers more than last year. In the secondary, Glover Quin and a healthy Louis Delmas played well at safety. Chris Houston struggled at times, but the Lions found out they might have a bit of young depth with Jonte Green, Darius Slay and Chris Greenwood when Houston was injured. Up front, the Lions' defensive line played well, as Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh enjoyed a nice seasons while rookie Ziggy Ansah had eight sacks and looked like a possible defensive rookie of the year off the edge. The Lions are perhaps a new safety and veteran corner away from becoming elite, which is great news for the offseason.
Special Teams: B. Coming off a bad season, the Lions' coverage units did much better in 2013. Though Detroit stayed with Michael Spurlock a bit too long, all was well that ended well, as the team seemed to have discovered Jeremy Ross as a returner during his strong second half. Rookie Sam Martin validated his selection in the fifth round by being a fairly consistent punter and kickoff specialist. David Akers drags the whole group down, as the Lions gambled and lost on the veteran, who was shaky most of the year from both long and short distances. All in all, however, it was a decent year from the Lions on special teams.
Coaching: D-. Considering Jim Schwartz was fired, it's not hard to give this group a failing grade. Schwartz failed to address discipline issues properly again, and even made some bizarre decisions along the way, including a fake field goal in the rain in Pittsburgh which backfired and may have become the staff's downfall. The offense never improved under Scott Linehan, who didn't develop enough consistency or show improvement or innovation all year. Guntther Cunningham did decently with the defense, but it's probably time for a new voice there as well. Special teams took a leap forward with John Bonamego which was excellent news. Will he remain? Who will take over? Right now, those are the biggest questions. Overall, though, the NFC North collapse from first to worst was too glaring for Schwartz to overcome, and the next boss must button things up from a discipline standpoint.Calvin Johnson, David Akers, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Jim Schwartz, Larry Warford, Matthew Stafford, NFL, Ziggy Ansah