I decided to go back and survey all the players I listed through the year. Here are five players that impressed most often as well as five players that frequently landed in my did not impress section.
5 Players Who Impressed
1. CB Darius Slay: 11 Weeks
Slay Impressed me the most out of any Lion. Slay being on this list in the number one spot is not a surprise. He had the best year of his career by far. He had more interceptions this year (8) than his first four years combined in the NFL.
2. QB Matthew Stafford: 10 Weeks
Stafford had one of his best seasons of his career. He ended the year with the highest passer rating of his career. He was the only QB to have two wide receivers each go over 1,000-yards. With no run game whatsoever and ten different starting O-Lines, Stafford was near MVP level and took the Lions to a 9-7 season.
3. WR Marvin Jones: 8 Weeks
Jones had a phenomenal year. He was the most improved player from a year ago in my book. Jones went for over 1,000-yards and lead the team in touchdowns. In the off-season, he sought out and worked with Randy Moss. It appeared to pay dividends as Jones was a monster in contested situations.
Jones has already said this upcoming off-season that he would like to work with Moss again in the off-season.
4. K Matt Prater: 6 Weeks
Prater was very consistent this year besides the Baltimore game. So much so, PFF ranked him the best kicker in the NFL. Prater hit 85% of his kicks and set the Lions franchise records for most made field goals over 50-yards.
5. TE Eric Ebron: 6 Weeks
Ebron was a big disappointment to start the year, but after the birth of his son and the trade deadline, he had a fire in him. During the final six weeks of the season, Ebron ranked in the top five for catches, yards, and TDs for tight ends in the NFL.
5 Who Did Not
1. O-Line: 8 Weeks
Stafford got sacked time after time. Big off-season additions underwhelmed. TJ Lang had his career worst year for penalties as well as missing a handful of games due to injury. Rick Wagner allowed only one less sack than Greg Robinson over the first six weeks then also missed time from injuries. Between the two free-agent pickups, there’s a lot of money and cap space hurt or underperforming.
Greg Robinson was a trade disappointment. After Taylor Decker injured his shoulder, many thought they could at least depend on Robinson to keep the blindside afloat. He ended up playing exactly like his time with the Los Angeles Rams– horrible.
Swanson reverted back to his poor 2015 form and sustained another career-threatening concussion. With his contract expiring this offseason, the Lions need to move on. His long-term health is just as much of a factor. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does not play in the NFL again. A couple of extended absences due to concussions over two years is very concerning.
A healthy Detroit Lions O-Line with all five starters only played 95 snaps out of 980– under 10% of the time. Maybe the Lions need to add a free agent, draft some help, or just get healthy.
2. LB Tahir Whitehead: 6 Weeks
Whitehead had a very good year against the run and improved from last season. However, he still struggled time and time again attempting to cover on passing plays. Whitehead also made a habit of not wrapping up and missing tackles but was overshadowed in that department by Jarrad Davis.
3. LB Jarrad Davis: 4 Weeks
Davis was one of the worst cover linebackers in the NFL after being one of the best in college. The Lions reduced his workload on 3rd downs to alleviate the issue. However, Davis was PFF’s 4th best LB the final five weeks of the year after he was not asked to not do as much. Davis also was near the top in the NFL for missed tackles while missing two games.
Another positive, Davis led all rookies in tackles. The only way to lead in tackles and missed tackles is to always be around the ball. Davis showed a lot of potential. Like a lot of rookies, he may just need to develop through the growing pains on his way to Pro Bowl play.
4. CB Nevin Lawson: 4 Weeks
This one actually surprises me. I knew Lawson had a bad week or two but I did not think he was a bottom five Lion for the year. There were quite a few games where DJ Hayden split time with Lawson.
Some of Lawson’s struggles could be influenced by how well Slay and Quin played this year. When you play against the Lions, it would not be wise to frequently target Slay.
5. Eric Ebron/Greg Robinson: 3 Weeks
Ebron has made this list as both a top five and not top five players for the Lions this season. That is a microcosm of Ebron’s career. Always hot or cold. Early in the season, as mentioned above, Ebron struggled mightily. When he turned it around, it was a thing of beauty.
Greg Robinson was a bit surprising to find on this list due to the fact he was cut before the halfway mark of the season. He was so bad, he outnumbered most of the Lions who played a full 16 games. Robinson was a disappointment, but thankfully he was only a stopgap until Decker returned.