Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

After the Detroit Lions' 35-32 loss Sunday to the Philadelphia Eagles, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. It was nice to see two of the Lions' defensive newcomers, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Ndamukong Suh, get on the board with sacks of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. But from the big picture, we haven't really seen much to suggest the Lions' defense is going to be able to address one of the key questions we set out before the season. Namely: Could Vanden Bosch, Suh and Corey Williams cover for sub-par play at linebacker and in the secondary? To this point, no. The Lions have given up more than 400 yards to each of their first two opponents. That doesn't mean improvement can't be made, but for the time being, it looks like the Lions are going to be in some shootouts this season.

  2. I didn't have a problem with coach Jim Schwartz's decision to turn down a 48-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter and instead run tailback Jahvid Best into the line on fourth-and-1. Generally, the mentality of a shootout is that field goals aren't good enough. Touchdowns are necessary. It's true the Lions ended up losing by three points, but there is limited connection between the two facts. If I had any beef with the decision, it was to use Best in a short-yardage situation. As great of a game as he had Sunday, and as important as it is to get the ball into the hands of your playmakers, I don't know if Best is the ideal short-yardage option. You wonder if it might make sense to develop another player, possibly fullback Jerome Felton, for that role.

  3. In training camp, we suggested that some of the Lions' new weapons -- Best, receiver Nate Burleson and tight end Tony Scheffler -- were going to have to demonstrate big-play abilities in order to start drawing attention away from receiver Calvin Johnson. Burleson hasn't done that yet and was sidelined most of Sunday by an ankle injury, but Best's all-purpose performance gives opponents the first serious secondary threat to contend with since receiver Roy Williams was traded in 2008. We'll see over time if that helps free up Johnson.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

NFL coaches often say that injuries affect every player differently, but it's still amazing to watch the divergent stories of Lions tailback Kevin Smith and tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Smith and Pettigrew suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments within weeks of each other last season. Pettigrew, however, has started both games this season while Smith has been inactive. Pettigrew was especially effective against the Eagles, catching seven passes for 108 yards and getting a key block to spring Best for a 75-yard screen play.