The Detroit Lions just finished a terribly disappointed, injury plagued 4-12 season that saw them shave six wins off their record from last year. You probably just want to move on and forget about it right? Focus on the 2013 season? Too bad! Before that will happen, I shall take the time to look back at how the Lions performed in 2012 one last time. Later, I will look at the defense. For now, it is time to assess the offense.
Quarterback: We all know the Lions were a pass heavy team. Case in point: Matthew Stafford broke the record for the most pass attempts in a season even though he missed part of one game with an injury, at which point Shaun Hill nabbed 13 attempts of his own. They had the second most passing yards per game. Stafford was coming off a great year, but this season there was some concern.
He only completed 59.8% of his passes, a middling number. He did have 4,967 yards, if not for his injury he likely would have crossed 5,000 yards again, but, once again, he also had 727 pass attempts. He also only threw 20 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. That is a poor ratio. He may have also rushed for four scores, but he's not Cam Newton. He's not even Aaron Rodgers. That's not something that can be relied upon.
Furthermore, on just a visual level, Stafford was baffling at times. Yes, he had a lot of drops hurt him, but he also made a lot of bad throws. Some of his interceptions were quite poor. Plus, there were the arm angles. Oh, the arm angles! All the sidearm throws and awkward ducks. Stafford doesn't have to be the picture of a perfect delivery. However, he's developing bad habits, and if he doesn't get his throwing motion in check to some degree, he's going to struggle to become an elite quarterback, which is what the Lions are hoping for, what with the first overall pick and the massive contract.
Running Backs: Perhaps the most notable number is this: Jahvid Best had zero carries. He played in zero games due to his concussion issues. This is a real bummer. The Lions could have really used a gamebreaker like him. Sure, Joique Bell is something of a poor man's Best, but he doesn't have the same skill level, and it took a little while for him to get integrated into the team.
Kevin Smith was an afterthought after Mikel Leshoure returned from his (inane) suspension, but kudos to him for his sparse work. Leshoure was the main ball carrier for the team. He carried the ball 215 times, but they only went for 798 yards. That's 3.7 yards per carry, which is mediocre. He had no run longer than 16 yards. He's a plodder. Sure, he had nine touchdowns, and I think he has a place on this team, but he definitely needs a complementary piece.
Bell was, in many ways, that piece. A really nice pickup for the Lions, Bell rushed 82 times for 414 yards, 5.0 yards per carry, and had three scores. However, he was also an active part of the passing game. While Leshoure only had 34 catches for 214 yards, Bell caught 52 passes for 495 yards. Neither got in the end zone through the air, but Bell averaged 9.3 yards per reception, which is quite good.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: It's all about Calvin Johnson. As you probably know, Johnson's 1,964 yards receiving are a new NFL record. He also had 122 receptions, although only five ended up in the end zone. However, he still led the team in touchdown catches. Johnson had 40 catches for 20+ yards, 517 yards after the catch, and 92 catches that went for first downs.
Then, there was a bunch of injuries to wide receivers that weren't Johnson. Titus Young finished second in receptions for wide receivers with 33 for 383 yards and four touchdowns. He was also banished from the team for being an idiot and then got placed on injured reserve. Brandon Pettigrew had 59 receptions for 567 yards and three touchdowns, both of those were second on the team. He also had four fumbles.
As is always the case, I looked at the numbers from Football Outsiders to get a sense of where this team stood. Their offense was actually quite good in 2012. They finished eighth in the league in Offensive DVOA, ninth in the pass and 12th in the run. Nothing really to complain about there. Only one non-playoff team, the Giants, finished ahead of them.
Speaking of the good folks over at Football Outsiders, they recently had a couple interesting articles on ESPN.com where they looked at the performances of the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends this season. Four Lions players were featured. I won't go into depth, but here's the general gist of it. First, and obviously, Johnson had the best season of any receiver. Conversely, Pettigrew actually had the worst season of any tight end. They said Stafford's traditional statistics belied how well he actually performed (which is encouraging), and Bell was one of the best running backs in the league. Seriously. In the top 10. So, it wasn't all bad for the Lions this year.