With your New York Giants opening the season on Monday night against the Detroit Lions, we turn to an old standby, the 'Five Questions' post, to learn more about the Giants. This week, Sean Yuille of Pride of Detroit answers our hopefully intelligent questions about the Lions.
Ed: What would you say is a reasonable expectation for the Lions entering the 2014 season?
Sean: Generally speaking, noticeable improvement from the last two seasons should be the baseline for expectations this year. To put an actual number on it, it would be disappointing if the Lions don't at least get to 8-8. From a talent standpoint, they should have won a lot more than seven games last year, and they should have won the NFC North given the injuries the Packers and Bears dealt with. This year, the Lions have even more talent, and although the new coaching staff is a bit of a question mark, it's not like they lost a major coaching advantage by firing Jim Schwartz. It will be disappointing if they can't at least get to .500 this season.
Ed: Many Giants fans hoped Eric Ebron would fall to the Giants at No. 12 in the 2014 NFL Draft. What are your impressions of Ebron thus far?
Sean: Early in training camp, Ebron caught some heat for drops, which was a known issue for him at North Carolina. As camp progressed, however, the drops issue faded and Ebron's role in the offense grew. He has lined up at the traditional tight end spot on the line, in the backfield as an H-back, in the slot and out wide as a receiver. Admittedly, we haven't exactly gotten a great look at what he's capable of just yet since the Lions have been bringing him along somewhat slowly, but it's clear they want him to eventually be their version of Jimmy Graham.
Ed: How do you see the match-up between the Detroit receiving corps and the Giants talented secondary playing out?
Sean: As long as Calvin Johnson is on the field, the Lions should have opportunities to move the ball through the air pretty consistently. Golden Tate is a huge upgrade at the No. 2 spot for the Lions, and Kevin Ogletree and Ryan Broyles could also get some targets. Throw in the Lions' trio of tight ends (Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Ebron) and their running backs (Reggie Bush and Joique Bell) and there is a lot of talent in the passing game. Just how successful they are will really come down to how Matthew Stafford plays, though.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants roster and put him in Detroit's lineup who would it be? Why?
Sean: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the easy pick here. The Lions' biggest question mark is their pass defense, and that's mainly because of the cornerback position. Darius Slay is their No. 1 corner, but it's unclear just how much improvement he's made since a rough rookie season. At the other starting spot is 34-year-old Rashean Mathis, who was solid last season but is up there in the age department. Having a legitimate No. 1 cornerback like Rodgers-Cromartie would paint a much different picture of the Lions defense.
Ed: Are there a couple of young players Giants fans don't know much about that they should be watching for on Monday night?
Sean: On offense, keep a close eye on tight end Joseph Fauria in red-zone situations. As an undrafted rookie last year, he had seven touchdown receptions despite only having 18 catches overall. At 6-foot-7, he's a tough player to defend down by the goal line.
On defense, Tahir Whitehead is expected to make his first career start at strongside linebacker. He was mainly a special teams player in his first two seasons in the NFL, but he really impressed after stepping in as the starting SAM linebacker in the preseason.
Thanks to Sean for taking the time to drop a little Lions knowledge on us. Be sure to visit Pride of Detroit to learn more about the Lions leading up to the game. As always, remember to play nicely with others if you drop in on the folks over at POD.