The NFL playoffs have been great so far, but the Lions have not been a part of it. Oh, they almost were, but then they fell apart, and now they have to plan for next season, where they will try and get to the postseason and maybe, just maybe, win a game. Here is what I think the plan should be for the Detroit Lions moving forward as they prepare for next year.
For starters, the team has already made a big move in firing Jim Schwartz as head coach. That is a step, hopefully in the right direction. At the moment, the indication is that Ken Whisenhunt is the choice for the job, and if the Lions offer it, I can't imagine him not taking it, because Detroit is the best job on the market. I'd be quite happy with that hiring.
Whisenhunt is an offensive guy, and you may be thinking that what the Lions need is somebody that can help with the defense. Well, in actuality, according to Football Outsiders the Lions only ranked 19th in offense. They ranked 21st in Weighted DVOA, which is to say they were worse later in the year. Matthew Stafford was a problem late, what with all his interceptions. The most important thing for this team is getting Stafford's game on track.
Whisenhunt is the kind of guy who could do that, but he hasn't been hired yet. Whomever it is, though, fixing Stafford's issues is integral. The offensive line seems fine, and the Lions are basically set at running back, whether they want to be or not. However, the wide receiver position could use an upgrade. The Lions pick 10th in the upcoming NFL Draft. Usually, picking a wide receiver that high isn't a good idea, but there are a couple really good wide receiver prospects this year in Sammy Watkins and Marqise Lee. If either of them fell to 10th, I would be fine with the Lions taking one of them. Pairing them with Megatron would help both Calvin Johnson and Stafford.
On defense, the Lions ranked 14th at Football Outsiders, and all of the issue was against the pass. This seems pretty clear. The Lions need to improve their pass defense. They need to add more bodies to the secondary. I know they have guys like Darius Slay and Bill Bentley they will want to take on a bigger role. They still need to keep throwing players at the wall until one sticks. Also, the Lions could use another pass rusher. Ziggy Ansah is going to be good going forward, but what about the other side? Willie Young? Plus, they need a rotation. Maybe they can add a veteran piece to the rotation, like they tried with Jason Jones.
Special teams also needs to be mentioned, because the Lions need a new kicker. I know kickers are high variance, so David Akers could bounce back, and probably would to some degree. However, he's old, and he did not do well. Kickers are expendable. They should replace Akers, and they should not, absolutely not, waste a draft pick in doing it. Maybe a seventh rounder, but even that would be unnecessary. Just pick somebody up as a rookie free agent or a regular free agent. They are out there.
Honestly, I don't see a ton of need for this team. A lot of the talent was there. Just hire a better coach, add an offensive weapon, a couple of pieces to the defense, and a new kicker. That is very much doable. If Stafford has a good year, that should be enough to at least get this team a winning record, and maybe a playoff spot.