Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Rising/Falling: Detroit Lions Week 9
By Michael Rothstein
Each week, we'll look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.
WR Calvin Johnson: 329 yards? In a single game? Your already ridiculously high stock is still rising, Calvin Johnson. Not that there was much question, but Johnson solidified his spot as the top receiver in the NFL. He leads the league in yards despite missing a game. The better question now is where he fits in among the best receivers of all time. It's a pretty interesting debate.
WR Nate Burleson: He isn't back on the field yet, but Burleson is inching closer to returning to the Lions and his reappearance will come at a good time. Detroit needs wide receiver help to complement Johnson and the emerging Kris Durham. Burleson is more than a nice complement. If he can return to game shape quickly, he'll be a much-needed addition with the season-ending injury to Ryan Broyles.
Detroit's playoff chances: So often, the cliche goes, the difference between a successful season and not, between making the playoffs and not, comes down to five or six plays during the season. Almost assuredly, if Detroit makes the playoffs, the final drive against Dallas will be a massive marker as to why. With one of the league's easiest schedules down the stretch (only Green Bay and Chicago are currently above .500 of the teams the Lions will play), the Lions are in a good position right now.
RT LaAdrian Waddle: The undrafted rookie played every snap Sunday but one -- he had to replace his shoe, which was falling off -- and did remarkably well considering his lack of experience. According to Pro Football Focus, Waddle graded out at a plus-1.1 rating in his pass blocking against the Cowboys and a plus-2.1 run blocking. Considering the average grade is zero, that should tell you how well he played.
WR Ryan Broyles: For whatever reason, Broyles just can't stay healthy long enough to contribute. He comes back from his first ACL tear last season, starts to make plays and tears his other ACL. Works his way back into the rotation this season and ruptures his Achilles on a fluke play. He is one of the nicest guys in a fairly friendly Detroit locker room, but right now he is either the victim of terrible luck, a body starting to fail him on an elite level or a combination of the two.
Returner Micheal Spurlock: Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said Monday the decision not to keep Spurlock active for the Dallas game was not a benching but more due to the Lions' offensive tackle issues. It may not matter in the end, as his replacement, Jeremy Ross, had a 44-yard kick return. Where Spurlock is potentially hurt, though, is Ross is a capable option for Detroit as a receiver, where Spurlock is not as much of one and is more of a return specialist, so Ross can just do more. As a fifth receiver, that's important.
TE Joseph Fauria: It is pretty clear that for now, Fauria's output is going to depend on the game. If offensive coordinator Scott Linehan feels better about three wide receiver sets in a game -- and with the return of Burleson, that's a pretty decent possibility going forward -- Fauria might have an inconsistent role the rest of the way. He has a ton of potential and is still a gigantic red zone threat, but Detroit didn't use him in the red zone against Dallas. His production might be the most volatile on the Lions roster.