I had the chance to catch up with Zac Snyder of the Side Lion Report this week and had a great conversation about the upcoming Lions-Bucs matchup at Raymond James. The Lions are an underrated team looking to finish strong and play spoiler to the Bucs. Zac seems pretty confident they can do it too. Here’s what they had to say and here are my answers to his questions.
1.) We in Tampa are becoming increasingly confident that we got the gem of the ’09 QB class. Aside from his numerous injuries and ailments, how has Matthew Stafford performed in Detroit and how do you think he stacks up to Freeman (and to some extent Sanchez)?
Sanchez is the guy that Stafford has been compared against the most because they were the top two quarterbacks to come off the board. Matthew Stafford had some growing pains when he played as a rookie but showed the potential that made him the number one overall pick. He has looked good when he has been on the field this year, but unfortunately he hasn’t been on it much. Stafford outperformed Sanchez head to head earlier this year until he was forced out of that game with his most recent injury. The Lions were ahead of the Jets at that point and Lions fans believe that they would have defeated the Jets had he finished the game. I believe Matthew Stafford is ahead of the curve considering how little he has played. Freeman has been a nice pick but Stafford still has the higher upside long term.
2.) What is the Lions biggest offensive need going into the off-season? What part of the offense is the greatest strength?
I don’t mean to go abstract on you but the Lions biggest offensive need is health. This obviously applies to the Stafford situation but it really goes beyond that. Stephen Peterman played well at guard last year but has been less effective this year due to a foot problem. He has taken a lot of heat from fans but I don’t think most of them understand how much he has been limited. Things are looking up now that the Lions are coming off their best rushing game of the season; a nice accomplishment considering they were also using their third string quarterback that had little impact in the passing game.
3.) Apart from Ndamakong Suh, how was the rest of the front seven looked and what moves need to be made to make it elite?
The front seven can’t be lumped together. This defense is a lot of haves and have-nots. The haves are the front four while the have-nots are the back seven. The front four has been dominant for most of the season by putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks without having to use many blitzes. The Lions have a lot of needs at linebacker and in the secondary but the front four has covered up some of those deficiencies. Corners and outside linebackers are the biggest need while middle linebacker DeAndre Levy and safety Louis Delmas are solid building blocks up the middle of the back seven.
4.) What is the best way for the Bucs to attack the Lions, what is the thing the Lions do best that the Bucs may want to stay away from?
The Bucs offense’s success could be predicated on their game plan in the passing game. The Bears picked the Lions apart by using quick passes to neutralize the pass rush. The Packers were eaten alive when their quarterbacks took deeper drops. The defensive line is the one area of the defense where the Lions have talent AND depth. The two part question is really answered in this one way.
5.) What does Detroit need to do to win and what’s your prediction?
Rush the passer and run the ball. The Lions defense has exceeded expectations and that has kept them in a lot of games. Josh Freeman has played well but he is still a young quarterback and the defense will need to force him into making mistakes. The Lions inability to run the ball has hurt them when trying to close out games for wins. Running the ball is as important now as ever since their passing game is a bit of an unknown with the Lions injury situation at quarterback.